For several days, following the death of George Floyd, there have been protests in Dallas and in other major cities around the country. That, mixed with an ongoing global pandemic, is concerning for Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.
Johnson sat down with NBC 5 Monday morning and said the death of Floyd was a "horrible tragedy," but added that people need to come together to talk about systemic issues in a positive way while still being mindful of the pandemic and continued spread of COVID-19.
"We are going through a difficult time in our country right now. It's a compounding situation with the COVID-19 virus and then this horrible death that everyone saw play out on video, but you know there has been some long-standing issues in this country that I think are starting to bubble up now, and it's rising to the general public's consciousness, and we are going to have to address those issues, we are going to have to talk about those issues, but we are going to have to do it in a peaceful way, in a calm way, in an understanding way, if we are going to make any real progress on that," Johnson said. "I can't emphasize enough how the virus that we are fighting is not going to take a time out while we do this. We have to do this while we are also fighting a global pandemic, so we have to be unified."
Sunday night Johnson issued a 7-day disaster declaration, which he said enabled the city manager to order the curfew at the request of Dallas Chief of Police Renee Hall.
Johnson said he doesn't know right now how long the curfew will be in place, but that it could remain in effect for the duration of the declaration, including if it's amended or extended by the Dallas City Council.
"It appears that the curfew had its desired effect, but you know I want to make sure that I have gotten the report from my law enforcement chain of command before I make that conclusion but it appears to be the case," said Johnson.
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Johnson told NBC 5 Monday morning that initial reports from late Sunday night show significantly more arrests, but that he had not heard of any cases of looting Sunday.
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When asked about the use of tear gas, Johnson said he stands by the police department as they handled a tough situation.
"Look, here is the reality. It is a tense situation. It is a complex situation. It is a fluid and dynamic situation and I stand by our police department and I think they are doing the best they can to keep people safe, the protestors and the community, and the public. So, you know, as a mayor, I never want to see the scenes that we are seeing play out in the streets of our city. I don't like seeing tear gas deployed in my city. I don't like seeing people in riot gear. I don't like seeing the things that are happening right now, but we have to get through this and I have to defer to the law enforcement experts in our city. I don't run the police department and I have to defer to the folks who know best about this," Johnson said.
Johnson wanted city residents to hear this:
"At this point, it appears that a serious majority, I mean, maybe two-thirds of the folks who are engaging in the mayhem, are not from our city. They are folks from outside of Dallas who are coming into our city and causing trouble and creating pain and doing damage and that has to stop. And so I want the people of Dallas to know that I am so proud of them. They have, by and large, heard our pleas for peace and have answered those pleas," Johnson said.