Grand Island police encourage "open dialogue" amid protests
Police across the Tri-Cities are describing Sunday night's Black Lives Matter protests as largely quiet and peaceful - vastly different from what happened in Lincoln and Omaha.
Aside from one incident in Grand Island, police in Hastings, Kearney and Grand Island said they didn't receive reports of violence or destruction during these protests.
Captain Jim Duering, Grand Island Police Department, attributes that partially to an open dialogue between themselves and the protest organizers.
"It's important that the people in the Midwest are showing everyone else in the nation what it's suppose to look like, how you get your message out to be heard and really make an impact," Duering said.
People started protesting around 7 p.m. Sunday on Locust Street in Grand Island. They held signs reading "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice No Peace."
Organizers told GIPD their plans for the evening. Officers stayed nearby in case they had any issues.
While hundreds of protesters marched to Pioneer Park for a moment of silence honoring George Floyd, who died while in police custody last week, police directed traffic and responded to any trouble from outside parties.
"We're more than happy to offer our assistance so people can practice their first amendment rights, as long as they're doing things the right way," Duering said.
Organizers said they were very grateful for police assistance.
Duering said they invite more communication between law enforcement and the public.
He said if you see a problem with one of their officers, or the department as a whole, they'd like to sit down and discuss it.
"The matter at hand is a stain on a job that we take very seriously, and service to the community that we take very seriously," Duering said. "They call us public servants, because we serve the public, and we can't do our job properly if we're not having conversations with the people in our community."
Grand Island police did respond to an assault several hours after the protest.
Duering said while officers were helping the victim, some started encroaching on the officers, which is when police deployed pepper spray.
He said some peaceful protesters helped regain order. The incident, which Duering described as minor, resolved quickly with no arrests.
People continued protesting without issues until midnight.
Duering said this type of incident isn't uncommon with large groups like this, and some sort of peace keeping is expected.