Protesters confront police, each other in weekend of demonstrations in Fairmont
Tensions escalated in Fairmont over the weekend as demonstrators continued their protests of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Monday marked the third-straight day of demonstrations that saw crowds shrink each day.
Saturday, the first-and-largest day of protests, was planned. Sunday's protests, according to police, were more spontaneous and caught them off guard.
As protesters marched in the city Sunday, some bystanders confronted groups who blocked city streets.
"You have to do it the right way and this is not it," one woman told the protesters. "This is not it. "You're in the middle of the street. You're blocking traffic. Have a peaceful protest."
The demonstrations in recent days in Fairmont were largely peaceful. But Sunday, two people were arrested during a confrontation with police. Fairmont Police Chief Steve Shine said Sunday a girl pushed an officer from behind and was arrested; another was arrested who tried to intervene. Pepper spray was used to settle down the crowd.
Governor Jim Justice on Monday addressed demonstrations held across the state and law enforcement.
"You're showing all kinds of wonderful restraint," the governor said of the officers. "What we should do is express our voices in peaceful protests and do that in a way that could make us greater and greater and greater."
Shine said he doesn't reject beliefs that there are problems in his profession, but he does reject notions that his department has many of those issues.
"From the time they start, they're told that they are a reflection of the badge for officers who are employed here in the city, in the county, across the state and into the nation," Shine said. "Their actions could have an echo effect for communities all around us. They need to wear that badge to honor their oath and make sure they're doing the best they can to provide professional service to the city into the community they serve."
In a statement Shine released Friday, he said the department will work to continue down the path of improving "in spite of the shadows casted upon us."
"With these events, we can only hope to win back the trust of those we may have lost it from; and continue to make those with faith in our professionalism, proud of us," he wrote.
Shine on multiple occasions over the weekend attempted to talk with protesters. He said he was able to connect with some of them as he condemned the actions of Minneapolis officers in their handling of George Floyd. Some in the crowd continuously interrupted him as he addressed them, while others encouraged everyone to listen to what he had to say.
"It's just really hard to have a conversation when someone wants to scream in your face with a bullhorn, cuss you, call you names and talk about misjustices that are anecdotal and maybe the result of criminal action rather than the color of their skin," Shine said.
One protester asked him in one of the gatherings what he does after someone feels like they experience racism.
"Racism will not be tolerated here," Shine said. "If somebody feels that an action has been taken against them because of the racist actions of a police officer, it will be investigated."
Most moments from Fairmont's protests remained peaceful.
Demonstrators laid in the intersection in front of the courthouse for close to 10 minutes, symbolizing the amount of time George Floyd was pinned down.
Fairmont State police officer Andrew Mills at one time marched with protesters, once joining hands with them.
"As good as we think we're doing, if the community doesn't think we're doing good, we need to try to do better," Mills said. "Perception is everything."
As protesters dispursed, a woman who they recognized as Miss Tate, a former school teacher, addressed the remaining crowd.
"You don't have to lay down to prove a point," Tate said. "You people proved a point yesterday. Have more self-respect for yourself to do this. The community will back you up."