Gov. Steve Sisolak delivered strong words for would-be agitators on Sunday, telling anyone who intends to cause destruction to stay away.
His comments came the day after chaos and destruction erupted in Reno and Las Vegas on Saturday night. The demonstrations in Nevada occurred along with dozens across the country as people gathered to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota — an incident that has triggered a wave of unrest in a nation already battling a pandemic and economic crisis.
“As governor, I encourage folks to exercise their peaceful First Amendment rights to protest. That's what built this country. That's what we're all about,” Sisolak said Sunday during a press conference in Reno. “But don't bring your destructiveness with you. And if you're coming from out of town, if you're coming to cause a problem in the state of Nevada, get the hell out of town.”
Reno City Hall and the Reno Police Department sustained damage after the protests took a violent turn. City and police officials, however, said the after Black Lives Matter protest was peaceful and the majority of those participants left after its conclusion.
Police said no one was seriously injured in the chaos aside from scrapes and bruises. Of the 23 people taken into custody late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, 16 are Reno residents, four are Sparks residents and the others hailed from Fallon, Truckee and Anderson, California, officials said.
Based on intel gathered from undercover officers, such as parking lots full of California license plates, police said they believe some of the destruction was initiated by people from outside the region.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and police department leaders said the city has video footage of some of the illegal activity and will be prosecuting people involved who can be identified.
“If you were rioting in our streets and doing things that were harmful to our city – illegal activity – we will not tolerate that,” she said. “We will absolutely not tolerate that.”
Reno’s acting police chief, Tom Robinson, also addressed the use of tear gas, which affected people abiding by the law in addition to those causing destruction.
“For those of you who were exposed, I apologize, but I hope you understand why it was necessary to employ those measures,” he said. “We were really trying to keep the crowd back and protect the infrastructure.”
Sisolak also vowed to do everything in his power to address the racial issues plaguing the nation and state. As a “privileged white man,” the governor said he can’t fathom what it’s like dealing with those situations each day.
“Those injustices will be addressed,” he said. “It’s our job as elected officials to address those injustices — not just to pay lip service — to address them and understand.”
Sisolak said state leaders would “sit at the table” to come up with a plan for implementing change.
As for what Sunday brings, Reno officials said they’re prepared to re-enact a curfew if necessary and call on the National Guard’s help again. But after hundreds of people turned out Sunday morning to help clean up the city, officials offered cautious optimism that violence could be avoided.
“As your mayor, I couldn’t be more proud of this entire city,” Schieve said. “And we will be strong, and we will stay strong.”