Fort Worth protesters face off with police on West 7th bridge over Trinity River

May 31,2020

See full Star-Telegram article by Kaley Johnson here

Hundreds of protesters who marched through downtown Fort Worth on Sunday night moved down West 7th Street, where they had an tense encounter with police on a bridge over the Trinity River.

Protesters locked arms as they approached a line of officers, some of whom were wearing riot gear and gas masks, blocking the other side of the bridge.

Police warned marchers that the protest had become an unlawful assembly and said they could be arrested if they didn’t leave the bridge.

The protesters got on their knees and chanted, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

Organizers began telling the crowd to walk away because they didn’t want any arrests, while some yelled back in disagreement. About half the group turned back, but others remained. They were trying to walk from downtown to the West 7th entertainment and cultural district, where many businesses and museums are located.

One man was detained by police shortly before 8:30 p.m. It was not immediately clear why he was arrested.

As of 9:40 p.m., protesters had been on the bridge for about two hours, demonstrating against police brutality.

Sam Schwartz and Sterling Gavinkski, both 24, said they came from Dallas to join the protest in Fort Worth. Hundreds of people in both cities have participated in protests over the past three days.

“There’s systematic oppression that’s rooted in our society and it’s been there as long as we’ve been alive,” Gavinkski said. “We’re here executing our free speech and standing up for what’s right.

“By the time we showed up in Dallas, everything was completely slowing down because they had militant groups on every corner,” he said. “We wanted to be involved in something.”

While protests in Fort Worth have been nonviolent, Dallas instituted a curfew beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday because some protesters there have looted businesses and damaged other property.

“It’s a much more scary vibe,” Schwartz said.

Maya Gunn, who joined Sunday’s march from the beginning, said police “were with us from the start, guiding us and walking with us. As soon as we get into the area of Fort Worth that really needs to hear our message, they stopped us and blocked us.”

“This is a very affluent area of Fort Worth,” she said. “A lot of rich, mainly white people live in this area. A lot of people who are affected by police brutality don’t look like them.”

Sarah Russell said she’s a teacher on the east side of Fort Worth.

“I have students of color, both black and Hispanic,” she said. “As a white woman, I’ve been quiet for too long. And I cannot love them as much as I do and not stand up for them.”

The protest has been “perfectly peaceful,” Russell said. “They literally stopped us for no reason.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.