Updated June 5, 2020 - 12:24 am
Protesters returned Thursday for the seventh night of protests in Las Vegas against police brutality — but this time, there was a small crowd of fewer than 100.
Two groups had planned to march on opposite ends of the Strip and meet in the middle, starting at 7 p.m.
But by 8:15, only about 40 people had showed up to the Tropicana; the other group was slated to start marching from the Strat. Both planned to meet at Bellagio.
Organizer Dustin Otis said the group started off small Wednesday night but grew rapidly once they started walking on the Strip, and he expected the same to happen Thursday.
The group has knelt in front of the Bellagio fountains. Their chants are competing with the roar of the water and the pipes of Sinatra. pic.twitter.com/BnDnUUGjHM
— Alexis Egeland (@alexis_egeland) June 5, 2020
The plan for Thursday night was to keep things peaceful and cooperate with police, Otis said. The protest was expected to end by 10 p.m. to keep things from getting out of hand.
Tensions sizzled earlier this week between officers and protesters: Pepper balls and tear gas have dispersed crowds, and Monday night ended in the death of a protester and a Las Vegas police officer shot and critically wounded.
“I’ve had people ask me, you know, ‘You’re white. Why are you out here organizing this stuff?’” Otis said. “I just want to give people a place to come to make their voices heard.”
Thursday’s protest, spurred by the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd while he was in police custody, marked the seventh consecutive night of protests in Las Vegas. The past two nights have ended peacefully.
Before demonstrators left the Tropicana, Otis spoke with officers, who assured him they were there to keep them safe. The protesters and the officers shook hands and expressed appreciation for each other.
Otis then addressed the small group, letting them know police were there to ensure the protesters could “exercise our First Amendment right, freely without being harmed.”
“I’m here to amplify your guys’ voices, that’s it,” he said. “Let’s have a good protest, all right?”
As the protest moved along toward Bellagio, the crowd swelled to about 60 and Zyera Dorsey — who said she’s been leading protests every night — reminded her peers to stay peaceful, stay together and stay on the sidewalk.
She lifted her fist in the air and chanted, “Your life matters, my life matters, black lives matter!”
On the way to Bellagio, the group paused and kneeled for a moment of silence to honor those who died due to police brutality.
My first night on protest duty! Pretty quiet on the Strip so far: https://t.co/fams0h5sib
— Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz) June 5, 2020
“We are making a change right now,” one protester said.
Around 8:45 p.m., the group caught up with the Strat group of about 20 people at the south end of Planet Hollywood.
James Nickerson, who was leading the Strat group, emphasized that the protests are about victims of police and those who are disadvantaged by the justice system, not against the police as whole.
“The protests will continue for weeks,” he said. “They’ll continue until we see actual change.”
As the group moved along, a few police cars drove slowly along with them.
They blocked off the entrance to Bally’s so the protesters could cross the street to the Bellagio fountains, where they took a knee.
On the bridge that connects the Cosmopolitan and the Miracle Mile Shops, protesters stopped again.
It was time for another call and response, this time referring to Floyd’s death.
“Get your knee,” one group chanted.
“Off my neck,” another group responded.
They then shouted Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Contact Alexis Egeland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexis_egeland on Twitter. Contact Ben Gotz at email@example.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Briana Erickson contributed to this report.