Reporters following a crowd of protesters shortly after midnight heard gunshots around Ninth and Broadway.
Jacob Ryan of KyCIR said he and other WFPL reporters were walking alongside a couple hundred protesters getting herded through downtown by a line of law enforcement. As they made a left on to Sixth Street, past the federal building, the crowd separated. Some cut down the alley and some went onto Broadway, Ryan said. “That’s where we heard the shots.”
The police ordered everyone to the ground and started shooting pellets into the crowd, Ryan said.
A police spokesperson confirmed the report of shots fired and said they would let us know when there are victims to report.
Highlands Protest Grew Unruly
A protest in the Highlands neighborhood was described as calm by city officials around 10:30 p.m., but shortly after 11 p.m. police began firing flash bangs and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
The standoff between National Guard and demonstrators was centered at the intersection of Highland and Baxter avenues, near the Starbucks and post office. A reporter on scene said tear gas was fired, but the police line hadn’t advanced toward the crowd.
I take that back. Pepper balls, flash bangs in Highlands. Police have pushed back protestors and lined up across Bardstown Rd pic.twitter.com/Mu0VJI6gpL
— Eleanor Klibanoff (@eklib) May 31, 2020
A police officer told the reporter that there was a report of gunfire earlier and protesters were lobbing fireworks, but there was no indication that violence occurred.
Tonight is the first night the city is under a 9 p.m. curfew, enforced by the National Guard along with Louisville Metro Police and Kentucky State Police.
At his first press briefing since the curfew began, Mayor Greg Fischer said police had arrested about 10 people who “disregarded orders to disperse.” He said he did not know the origin of the people who were arrested. Fischer has said that outside agitators are contributing to unrest in Louisville.
He said the city changed tactics following the destruction of property that took place Friday night. He also described the crowd as smaller and easier to manage than on the previous two nights, and thanked those who did not break the curfew.
“I want to thank the people of Louisville for contributing to this being a relatively safe night so far, for peacefully protesting for change,” he said, “and I continue to commit to being your partner to work toward that change on what we can do here locally, and advocate at the state and federal level for more change.”
Tracy Dotson, a spokesperson for Metro Corrections union, said they don’t have exact numbers yet, but arrests are “many and steady right now… Night and day compared to the last two days.”
There were two main protest locations: downtown around Metro Hall, and through the Highlands, where protesters last night and tonight walked down Bardstown Road and peacefully demonstrated. While much of downtown suffered broken windows and looting during demonstrations last night, there were only a couple isolated incidents of vandalism in the Highlands.
Around 10 p.m., WFPL reporters stationed throughout downtown Louisville reported a large crowd between Metro and City Halls and police action to move protesters east on Market Street. Two reporters who had been tracking alongside law enforcement were ordered back as the officers moved on the crowd and fired pepper balls.
The officers were not warning before firing.
On Market Street, police fired on a car with pellets.
Police pelt car with pellets on Market Street. The 22yo man says he was on his way home from work and made wrong turn into protest area. pic.twitter.com/qM1yexm3Pr
— jacob ryan (@jacobhryan) May 31, 2020
With a half hour to go before the new curfew hit, law enforcement was already working to disperse crowds on either side of the Sixth and Jefferson intersection that’s been the focus of protests in the last few days.
A USA Today reporter filmed law enforcement dumping out water and milk jugs left out for protesters, and reporters on the scene said flash bangs, green smoke and tear gas were already being deployed before 8:30 p.m. Later in the evening, Fischer said the milk jugs and water bottles contained “flammable” materials.
Mounted officers were patrolling near West Liberty Street behind a line of officers in riot gear.
As protesters chant, “no justice, no peace,” the officers are readying pepper balls and equipped with zip ties.
Near the jail and Hall of Justice, where protesters last night broke windows and lit a small fire, troopers suited up with gas masks.
— 89.3 WFPL News (@WFPLNews) May 31, 2020
A separate protest has been ongoing for more than an hour in the Highlands. There, police were holding a line but didn’t deploy any tear gas or other methods.
With five minutes to go before curfew, KSP and LMPD officers began firing tear gas past retreating protesters downtown.
At the Highlands protest, the crowd began to disperse before 9 p.m., with organizers encouraging people to go home. But many people milled about, the crowd recongregated and a march east down Bardstown Road began again after 9:15 p.m.
Black Lives Matter organizer Chanelle Helm, poet Hannah Drake and Metro Council candidate Jecorey Arthur issued a video denouncing any unplanned protests.
A PSA from BLM Louisville and Co. pic.twitter.com/37Bl2qe8ym
— BLM Louisville (@BLMLouisville) May 31, 2020
Stephanie Wolf, Jared Bennett, Eleanor Klibanoff, Jeff Young, Jacob Ryan, Amina Elahi and Ryan Van Velzer contributed reporting. This story will be updated.