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caption: Protesters face Bellevue Police  in downtown Bellevue Sunday, May 31, 2020. The crowd was protesting the death of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, killed by police officers in Minneapolis. 
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Protesters face Bellevue Police in downtown Bellevue Sunday, May 31, 2020. The crowd was protesting the death of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, killed by police officers in Minneapolis.
Credit: Esmy Jimenez/KUOW News

A peaceful protest in Bellevue alongside looting and destruction

Sirens and helicopters surrounded protesters in Bellevue Sunday. Then two loud bangs; white and green smoke appeared as people ran.

GEORGE FLOYD UNREST IN WESTERN WASHINGTON: Peaceful protests, violent rioting, and the city's response

This was the second night of unrest in the Puget Sound region over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by police officers in Minneapolis.

But as has happened in many other cities around the country, the crowd broke into at least two different groups: those protesting decades of police brutality and racial injustice and others stirring the pot of chaos, taking advantage of the situation and breaking into shops.

Some looters ran out of the Bellevue Square mall, hands filled with clothes and designer purses. Meanwhile, peaceful protesters took a knee and faced armed police with chants that echoed out in the street "hands up, don't shoot."

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Protesters in downtown Bellevue on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
Credit: Esmy Jimenez/KUOW News

Trent Randle was among the latter. His eyes were red and watering from the smoke.

"A lot of my brothers and sisters were peaceful protesting. I was in Seattle [yesterday] but same thing happened to me. This sh*t hit me in the face. I got hit in the leg with a flash bang and I got cracked with tear gas. Now look at me!"

Jiho Lee, an international student at UW was also among the peaceful protesters and condemned the stealing. Lee said he wants justice but he doesn't want, "Bellevue to become the second Seattle or Minnesota."

In response to the property damage and theft, Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson instituted a 5:30 p.m. curfew and declared a civil emergency.

Governor Jay Inslee also deployed 200 unarmed National Guard to assist Bellevue law enforcement.

"I'm just very sorry to see this happen to our city," Mayor Robinson said at a Sunday evening briefing. "Despite the violent and destructive actions that detract from the original message, we still hear and see those who are making important meaningful and peaceful statements."

Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said he agreed with Mayor Robinson and added, "We're disgusted by what happened to Mr. Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. We take it personal when that happens."

But Mylett also shared that the department was alerted through social media that a known gang would be in the area, "with the intent to destroy property and steal things."

Social media posts circulated videos of the looting. And while some businesses managed to board up their windows before the damage began, others were not so lucky.

caption: A smashed window at Smith & Main, a business in downtown Bellevue on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
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A smashed window at Smith & Main, a business in downtown Bellevue on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
Credit: Esmy Jimenez/KUOW News

The Bellevue Police Department does not yet have a tally of the number of protesters arrested or businesses affected.

Police Chief Mylett did meet with remaining protesters in person late Sunday. In a video circulating on Twitter, he takes a knee and shares with protesters, "We're with you, not against you."

Just blocks away, yet another video showed Bellevue residents armed, presumably protecting their homes from any potential damage.

Comments from people of color online were shocked while others weighed in saying it was the residents' right to protect their neighborhood.

Tensions over the treatment of Black citizens has spread across America in recent days.

On Sunday, it reached Bellevue.