"We know there is an attack on humanity here and a pressure point has been hit," said Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz. "The result of it is this explosion of anger and emotions."
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis sparked a cry of outrage from a section of humanity long suffering, and as citizens of the world open their doors to get moving again following a global pandemic, many voices of the Black community and supporters calling for equality and justice flooded the streets around the nation.
While the protests largely remained peaceful, there were instances of clashes with police, rioting, and looting around the country. Delaware was not an exception; protests that began in the morning as an expression of frustration increased in volatility as the day progressed.
"There were individuals who had a positive intent of coming down just to demonstrate their positions on what happened to [George Floyd]," Shabazz said. "And then, of course we had the provocateurs who came in and--which I understand, they were all over the country--they've really taken advantage of this peaceful protest and provoked it to be something other than what they intention of [the protests are], and resulted in the destruction we saw throughout the city."
On Tuesday, Governor John Carney expressed his own opinion on whether there was any out-of-state influence on the protests, and his concern was less that there may have been outside influence, and more that there would be any influence of that nature at all.
"I've heard a lot of reports about that and my frustration really is so many people that have really good intentions with respect to the peaceful protests, and then have people that maybe aren't from here or don't have the best interest of our city and our state uppermost in their mind--whether they're from in-state or out-of-state--to be instigating destruction, just very frustrating for me, as governor," he said. "My focus is--and I think all the leaders that that have been engaged in this--the focus is on listening and trying to to address the real issues that underline the anger and frustration. And that's our challenge going forward. First, obviously, to keep calm and to protect persons and property, and hopefully to avoid another situation like that, but secondly to address the underlying grievances that are real, that are historic, that are ones that are hard to address."
On The Rick Jensen Show, Shabazz and Councilman Chris Johnson said Delaware is no stranger to unrest based on racial inequality.
"This is something that we've unfortunately seen before," Johnson said. "We have to start to learn from history. If we think about it, even a few years ago in Delaware, we had an insurrection and uprising at [James T. Vaughn Correctional Center] that had tragic consequences, and we still have issues in the prison. So, for us, we really have to tackle the inequality that is in our communities, and that will allow us to finally have everyone at the table, and there won't be the anger."
He added the table itself is partially a cause for continued anger, as even it can be perceived as lesser-than.
"The frustration that [we] hear is that they want a seat at the table, but they don't even like the table that they would get a seat at," he said. "The system is rotten to its core, so I believe that ultimately, where we go from here...We have to get through this week. We're still on high-alert."
There was also reports among officials that perhaps not all of the activity that grew out of Wilmington's protesting originated within the city limits. Shabazz said there was reason to believe some of the actions Saturday night stemmed from opportunistic outside influencers.
"There were reports of people with out-of-state license plates that were very much involved in the looting," Shabazz said. "There were cars pulling up, going into some of the stores, and taking product out. That was reported there was that type of activity happening here in the city."
The police, for their role, were commended by Johnson as having done a good job generally maintaining peace while allowing an expression of anger, and giving room for voices to be heard.
"I truly believe [Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy] has done an excellent job handling the situation," he said. "I've been in constant contact with him...Sure, you can 'Monday morning quarterback,' and maybe they could have done a presentation a little bit differently, but I truly believe that the fact that no one was hurt, no one was shot, everyone was respected, there was no violence."
There were a total of four arrests made by Wilmington Police during Saturday's protests, and all four suspects were from Wilmington, police said Tuesday, June 2, 2020.
Carney expressed his own thanks to Wilmington city officials for their handling of the situation.
"I need to thank Mayor [Mike Purzycki] and Chief Tracy, and their team for the way they conducted themselves on the street there on Saturday, and under very stressful conditions--the objective of which was to protect property and folks from from injury," he said. "And I think, obviously, there were mixed results with respect to the property side, and on the people side, not many people were hurt. I don't know the exact numbers there. But they have a very difficult job. And part of their job is not to make it worse, and I think that's the challenge that local officials face is to how to calm a crowd down, that doesn't doesn't explode into violence and vandalism...and when you're being pelted by rocks and folks are throwing stuff at you, how do you maintain appropriate control and where is that line?"
The result in Wilmington was one that Shabazz said was, all things considered, as good as a situation like that could be.
"Considering what's happening across the nation, I think Wilmington fared not too bad. We got broken windows and lost merchandise and things from the looting, but the cooperation in the way that the police department handled it--they were not aggressive, they were just there to do their major job, which was to protect and serve, and with understanding. I don't know what person would not have an understanding about the anger about what happened to George Floyd."