HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Hampton police say numerous people looted and vandalized some businesses at Peninsula Town Center on Tuesday night hours, following a peaceful protest there.
10 people were arrested and a woman was injured after things escalated around midnight.
Black Lives Matter 757 made it clear beforehand that they were not involved in organizing this event, and said “it could possibly be a setup.” When 10 On Your Side viewers reached out to the organizers “powertothepeople757,” the page for the protest was deleted shortly after.
It is unclear whether the group vandalizing businesses is the same group that gathered nearby in a demonstration earlier. People who spoke with 10 On Your Side on Wednesday morning said they came out with pure intentions to speak out against police brutality and the senseless death of George Floyd.
Police say there were nearly 600 people that started to march on Mercury Blvd. around 9 p.m., marching up and down Mercury, before splitting into two groups.
One group returned to the Target parking lot, where they prayed, hugged and took a knee with police.
The other group went up on I-64 for about an hour and blocked traffic. VDOT Hampton Roads said all lanes were blocked on Interstate 64 eastbound and westbound, but didn’t specify whether they were closed due to any demonstrations. The lanes had all reopened by 11:30 p.m.
Both witnesses and police told 10 On Your Side things took a turn around midnight.
Police say demonstrators surrounded the officers, and someone from the crowd released a smoke bomb. People started throwing glass bottles of urine and feces at officers, and someone started firing shots, police said.
Police say that’s when they declared an unlawful assembly, and deployed tear gas on the crowd. Then the group members ran into the Town Center complex, and vandalism of businesses started.
“Once they fired off to the crowd, the crowd ran this way and scattered. Once they scattered, that’s when people started tearing up businesses … about four or five businesses they looted or destroyed,” said witness EJ Jones. “And the sad part about it is, about 3 or 4 of these businesses are Black businesses.”
It’s unclear how many businesses were vandalized, police said, but there were at least five.
Police Chief Terry Sult said the force did the best they could with the resources they have, and no officers were injured. They are investigating who organized the demonstration, saying it was a “very well planned attack.”
“We could have made a hundred arrests, if we could have had the resources, if we could have had our hands on the individuals … the heartwarming part of it is there were actually a few people who were picking up the clothing and trying to place it back in the store,” Sult said.
10 On Your Side’s Kiahnna Patterson is on the scene gathering more details.
Stay with WAVY.com for updates.