New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington have instituted a nightly curfew. Officials say they respect the right to a peaceful protest – but they don’t know the identity of a group that’s gathering nightly.
The now-nightly 9 PM to 5 AM curfew is a response to increasingly aggressive protests in downtown Wilmington. Those protests, ignited by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last week, have continued since the weekend.
But officials say while they support and even encourage community members to exercise their First Amendment right, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says they won’t tolerate unlawful behavior.
"Sadly, there are those trying to hijack our rights -- people who seem to be moving from place to place inciting assaults and picking up rocks and bottles and throwing fireworks at police and basically violating the law. Other NC towns have seen gunfire and buildings set on fire. That is not protesting. That is not healing. That is violence."
For WHQR Video Feeds of the Demonstrations, go to WHQR's Facebook Page
Local chapters of both Black Lives Matter and the NAACP have disavowed this group of protesters. Saffo also says officials don’t yet understand who these people are.
But he insists the protests by Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wilmington, the Tea Party Movement, and the public outcries over Chemours’ pollution of the Cape Fear River with GenX -- are all good examples of the exercise of First Amendment rights.
Saffo says he looks forward to lifting the curfew as soon as possible. Until then, groups of 10 or more are prohibited from gathering on public property 9 PM to 5 AM until further notice.