Sioux Falls Police and Mayor Paul TenHaken say if you will be caught and face criminal charges if you caused any violence or vandalism near the Empire Mall. Authorities are looking into how a peaceful protest in the name of racial equality turned into vandalism, theft, tear gas, injuries and the activation of the National Guard.
Police say protestors threw large rocks at officers and vandalized several businesses near the Empire Mall. There were also break-ins at some stores nearby. People we talked with Sunday night said officers deployed tear gas and used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. You could find empty tear gas canisters and rubber bullets in the parking lot.
It’s the tale of two protests. First, there was one in Downtown Sioux Falls in which community members came together in the name of George Floyd and countless others.
When the sun went down, a crowd made its way to the Empire Mall and things escalated.
“We just want peace. We’re tired of – that ain’t happening. We’ve been pushed to the edge. People like us have been pushed to the edge,” Tupak Kpeayeh said.
“This group of white people that were standing right behind me, they were from out of town, they grabbed these rocks and started throwing them at the mall. Started throwing them at the mall and tried to ruin everything we tried to accomplish today,” Christina Ristesund said.
“This rock actually physically came from the scene last night at the Empire Mall. We had rocks much larger than that narrowly miss our officers,” Chief Matt Burns, Sioux Falls Police Dept., said.
Chief Burns says officers worked with organizers on the afternoon event.
“I do not want those events at the mall in Southwest Sioux Falls and other areas to put a dark stain on that,” Burns said.
However, they prepared for the worst later on. Police, deputies, guard members, and highway patrol troopers were all in the mall parking lot.
“If you think you can riot, loot, steal, burglarize, create property damage and hurt others in this city with impunity, you’re mistaken,” Burns said.
Police say officers have arrested two people. One of the suspects is from Omaha. However, Mayor Paul Ten Haken says a lot of the people in surveillance videos and pictures are local. Authorities are looking at pictures and video of people committing crimes, and working with the State’s Attorney on any more charges.
“We will then work to communicate and seek justice on behalf of our community, both our persons and the businesses within our community and we will seek to hold them responsible according to what they have done,” Crystal Johnson said.
Kpeayeh, who wasn’t in the Empire Mall parking lot, but in the area, says what we’re seeing here and all over the nation is a boiling point over racial inequality.
“I’ve got siblings. I’ve got little sisters. I’ve got brothers all that. If they got pulled over, I don’t want them to get shot. When my mom calls, she’s going to be scared if I get pulled over, because she’s going to think I will get shot or something,” Kpeayeh said.