'We can do better:' Curfew issued in Racine as city leaders decry violence during protests

RACINE -- A city-wide curfew was issued Monday night, June 1 through Tuesday morning amid protests following the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The curfew runs from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.

“We are issuing this curfew out of an abundance of caution," said Mayor Mason in a statement. "The evidence suggests that last night’s activity that led to the destruction of Thelma Orr COP house and vandalizing of other local businesses came from individuals who are not a part of or from our community. We know people need to be heard, and on both Saturday and today we saw a well-organized and peaceful demonstration and marches through the City. However, we don’t want outside forces to use peaceful protests as shields at night in order to cause destruction. I don’t believe that destruction represents the intention of the community members I have heard from, who are demanding justice, and want us, as a City and a nation, must root out racism in all its form where ever it exists."

In Racine, a small protest picked up Monday night -- after an intense Sunday night. This, amid several rounds of short marches and protests in Racine sparked by Floyd's death -- something both protesters and city leaders said the violence has nothing to do with.

Thelma Orr

Racine Police Chief Art Howell

As the Thelma Orr Community-Oriented Policing House burned, and its charred remains continued smoking come sunrise Monday, the Racine civil rights icon's granddaughter was left broken by the news.

"It's more than just a building," said Julia Jones, Orr's granddaughter. "There's an essence around it. There's a meaning behind the Thelma Orr COP house that's been destroyed."

"The people who came into our community that perpetrated this particular act made a tactical error because now, we get to share in our personal outrage in the entire community," said Racine Police Chief Art Howell.

Members of the Racine community gathered downtown Monday afternoon. Dalaisha Green, 18, said it's important police officers are held accountable for their actions -- but the actions of some in the name of Floyd, too, must be held accountable. '

"We're fighting for change," said Green. "We're fighting for peace. We just want to be treated equally, as everyone else. We want to be treated the same. But there's people that's actually out here who want to make a change, and who are putting their life on the line to get their message across."

Tony Hammes, with his two boys in tow, said he hoped to impress that some of the violence, looting and arson that took place isn't the message of equality and justice for people of color.

"This isn't us," said Hammes. "We can do better, and that's what I'm here for. We can do better. We have a generation that needs to grow up in a world that's peaceful. I want to show that Racine's peaceful, and that this can be done."

With some business owners in downtown Racine bracing for the worst, Mayor Cory Mason called out those seeking to sow crime in the name of peacefully protesting.

"We do not want you here," said Mayor Mason. "We will reject your efforts, and actively respond to your attempts to destroy properties, and incite violence in our city. The destruction and violence does nothing to support our shared goals of social and economic justice."