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Peaceful Protests Turn Chaotic As Police Use Tear Gas On Protesters Who Shutdown I-676; Over Two Dozen Arrested

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Peaceful protests turned chaotic on Monday afternoon for a third day in a row in Philadelphia. More than two dozen protesters were arrested after hundreds took to the Vine Street Expressway during a rally.

Philadelphia police also warned protesters they will be subject to arrest and citation for breaking the 6 p.m. curfew.

The AP reports police fired non-lethal bullets and tear gas as traffic was halted on I-676 and the Ben Franklin Bridge during the evening rush hour.

Vine Street Expressway protests
Credit: CBS3

Protesters tell CBS3 that police released tear gas and that, at one point, the chopper above dropped something onto the crowd. They also said that at one point canisters were lobbed back in the direction of state police.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw says tear gas was used after the crowd surrounded and started rocking a state trooper's vehicle. Outlaw also says protesters threw rocks at responding officers.

"We have repeatedly assured our great communities that we will protect, preserve, and uphold every person's constitutional right to protest. However, we can not tolerate acts of violence and other criminal activity," stated Outlaw, adding, "Today's deployment of tear gas was a means to safely diffuse a volatile and dangerous situation, and restore order, when it became increasingly clear that other measures were ineffective in accomplishing that necessary objective. We will continue to evaluate the propriety of all applications of force, and make determinations as the circumstances of each unique situation dictate."

Some protesters climbed a steep embankment and scaled a fence as police fired non-lethal bullets and tear gas canisters.

Credit: CBS3

Mayor Kenney also issued a statement late Monday night in response to the use of tear gas.

"The use of tear gas during a demonstration is something that I never wanted to witness during my time as mayor. I'm deeply saddened that peaceful protests for such an important cause are being diminished by actions that threaten public safety," Kenney said.

"I want to assure the public that this was not a decision that anyone took lightly. It was made because we simply cannot condone behaviors that endanger the lives of others, like traversing an open highway. The officers on site were concerned about the safety of protestors as well as those who may be driving on the highway.

"After issuing several warnings, they made the decision to deploy tear gas to encourage the crowd to disperse. While I regret that it came to that, and I am disturbed by the footage that I've seen, I support decisions made by the Department to resolve today's activity.

"I also support activity by people like Deputy Commissioner Melvin Singleton, who was able to peacefully disperse a crowd in Center City by kneeling with them, activity that was mirrored by officers across the City, including outside the Police Administration building.

"We will only be able to move forward if we are united together, and we must keep each other safe while supporting each other through our grief.

"I urge Philadelphians to continue peaceful protesting in ways that do not put yourselves, your fellow Philadelphians, or law enforcement officers in danger."

I-676 was closed between I-95 and I-76 in both directions but reopened before 9 p.m., according to state police. The Ben Franklin Bridge also reopened just before 10 p.m.

The protest started peacefully before it escalated on the Vine Street Expressway. The protesters were heading toward the Art Museum at the time.

The "Justice for George Floyd" rally initially started at police headquarters at 8th and Race Streets Monday afternoon.

Chopper 3 was over the large crowd as they began to march.

justice for george floyd rally monday
Credit: CBS3

A 6 p.m. curfew is again in effect for Philadelphia as members of the National Guard have arrived in the city. The curfew lasts until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

A smaller group of protesters stood head to head with officers back near 8th and Race Streets in front of police headquarters. The National Guard was part of the display of uniforms that eventually urged the protesters to disperse, announcing that if they did not, arrests for breaking curfew would begin.

Smaller incidents involving demonstrations dotted the city, with sirens and helicopters moving as swift as the groups of protesters.

Violence and looting has marred the city since the weekend after George Floyd protests began peacefully on Saturday.

Over 400 people total have been arrested since Saturday. Eighteen police officers have been injured.

CBS3's Joe Holden, Alecia Reid and Alexandria Hoff contributed to this report.

For more information on the George Floyd protests, click here

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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