What started as a peaceful protest in the Manassas area Saturday evening turned into a violent clash with demonstrators throwing rocks, bricks and bottles at police late into the night.
By 12:30 a.m., the protest had mostly broken up, leaving two state troopers injured - one struck in the head with a brick and the other injured by a rock thrown at his leg, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
The trooper struck in the head suffered only minor injuries thanks to her riot helmet.
"The protesters were given repeated verbal commands to disperse at that location, but have refused," Geller said. "In an effort to safely disperse the violent crowd, state police has utilized non-lethal tactics, such as OC "pepper" spray and powder."
In a phone call with InsideNoVa.com, local drone photographer Alfredo Panameno of Sky’s the Limit Media described the scene as flash bangs could be heard in the distance.
At 11:30 p.m., Panameno said the crowd was being pushed back by officers after breaking out the windows of Best Buy in Bull Run Plaza, BB&T bank, AT&T, Taco Bell and a police cruiser’s windows.
The Manassas-area rally against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis began with people carrying signs and standing outside the Taco Bell at Sudley Road and Sudley Manor Drive outside Manassas. Drivers in the area at the time said the people held signs and didn’t block traffic.
Panameno said there were about 100 people to start, but the crowd grew quickly and became rowdier. Protestors at one point began heading for Interstate 66, with the crowd yelling “66, 66,” with a mission to block the interstate.
Police then began blocking the protestors, holding the crowd back at Williamson Boulevard, Panameno said. That’s when the crowd began to get out of hand, with some throwing rocks and water bottles at police officers and vehicles, he said.
By 9:30 p.m., Prince William County police had declared the protest an unlawful assembly and brought in Virginia State Police and a Fairfax police helicopter to hold the crowd.
A few miles from where I live, clearly these protests are no longer limited to cities but seeing violent protests in the suburbs shows how deeply rooted the anger and betray truly is this time around! #BlackLivesMatter #Manassas #BLM https://t.co/AFc5M0MMYe— Nabeel Chohan (@Nabeel_Chohan) May 31, 2020
Panameno said there were between 300 and 400 people in the crowd, with more than 100 law-enforcement officers in riot gear forming lines to move the crowd.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Panameno said.
There were no reports of serious injuries and no reports of any arrests early Sunday morning.
Police continued to block roads and intersections through the Sudley area after the crowd left, and planned to maintain that presence through the night.