West Palm Beach City & Police Leaders Explain What Led To Violence

The Mayor of West Palm Beach is defending his call for a state of local emergency and curfew after "agitators" attacked police officers and looted stores. He says that began after peaceful demonstrations turned destructive Sunday night.

"West Palm Beach Police officers were under attack from a rock-throwing crowd," James said at a news conference on Monday.

The mayor also responded to allegations that officers instigated a confrontation along Clematis Street.

"Those allegations are 100 percent unequivocally false."

The nationwide protests all stemmed from the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis last week. The now-former officer, Derek Chauvin, faces charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Of the estimated 3,000 peaceful demonstrators, police estimated less than 100 of them turned into "agitators" after they cleared the downtown area sometime after 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The crowd scattered to an area near the railroad tracks. "They had ammunition, railroad rocks," said Assistant Police Chief Richard Morris, who called the mayor and asked for a curfew when the violence ramped up.

Police Chief Frank Adderley said a majority of the "agitators" were not from West Palm Beach, but from Miami-Dade and Broward County, and at least one person from Gainesville.

The chief said one individual attacked an elderly woman in a car while she tried to drive home. One officer had to use pepper spray to get the woman to safety.

The city also shut down a stretch of I-95 for safety reasons after receiving intelligence about protesters wanting to shut it down.

Police made at least five arrests, one of whom is a juvenile. They all face charges from aggravated assault to inciting riots to resisting arrest.

By the end of the night, police saw damage at Best Buy and Target off Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. There was also damage to storefronts along Clematis Street and at the Palm Beach Outlets.

Photo: CBS 12

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