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Cleaning, Repairs Underway After Weekend Violence In Reno

A man and a woman are writing on a poster that is hanging on a boarded window.
Paul Boger
KUNR Public Radio
Governor Steve Sisolak and First Lady Kathy Sisolak sign a poster hung up on a boarded window as the tour the damage caused by the violent protest in Reno on May 30, 2020.

Reno is on the mend after a riot occurred on Saturday night, causing damage to public and private property in the heart of the Biggest Little City. To get the latest on what happened, we turn to KUNR's Paul Boger to learn what residents, business owners and city officials are doing to assess the damage and to begin clean up.

ZENDER: Let's recap the past couple of days. How did we get to this?

BOGER: It started as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality in the light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, early last week. Of course, that devolved into what was essentially a riot. Saturday night, tear gas was being used against protesters. Rocks were thrown at police officers. Lots of damage was caused, a lot of vandalism. But what you saw Sunday morning was different. You saw Reno as a community really come out, clean up a lot of that destruction, start boarding up windows and really trying to help those who were affected by that damage. It's something that Mayor Hillary Schieve said was really emblematic of the city.

“I want to say thank you to this entire community who came out this morning, scrubbed our streets, scrubbed our sidewalks here at the Reno Police Department, scrubbed walls. Children [were] out there scrubbing and cleaning up our community. It was a sight to see because you would have been proud,” Schieve said.

ZENDER: One thing that's been a bit of a mystery is exactly where these protesters came from. We've heard reports that in other cities that have recently had violent protests that most of the people that are causing the damage were from out of town. What's the case here?

BOGER: Well, that is a bit of a mystery. More than 20 people were arrested Saturday night, and according to the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, most of those were from the area, Reno-Sparks, Fallon, a few from Truckee, one from Anderson, but Reno PD says differently. According to Acting Chief Tom Robinson, police really saw a lot of the protesters driving cars from California, with California tags and looking like they were from out of town. At least that's what they say.

“Twelve of the individuals we arrested claiming Nevada residency, we couldn’t verify. The individuals that we arrested claiming a Nevada residency, we put, they couldn't verify it there. The other thing is of course, we had a lot of undercover assets out last night following crowds and they observed a lot of California license plates from a lot of these individuals, and they seem pretty organized, parking in the same locations and parking lots full of California license plates. So our suspicion is based on the information that we observed.”

ZENDER: Do we know the extent of the damage that was caused?

BOGER: You know, we really don't have any idea of the figures yet. We know there were at least a dozen businesses that were affected, whether it was vandalism or people breaking windows. There was even an occasional account of looting. Patagonia, I believe, had some things stolen out of it before police showed up. There was also an electric cart that was burned to the ground and an ATM was broken into and looted. So we really don't have an idea of what the dollar amount was.

Of course, that's not accounting for City Hall where, on the first floor, all the windows were shattered out. That was looted. City Council chambers were looted. A fire was set in there. So, a lot of damage to that property. But again, it's on the mend. We're actually seeing a little bit of progress and repairs being made. But you know, going back to that question of who caused the damage, they just say it was bad actors and Governor Sisolak even said if it was folks from out of town, they're not welcome in Nevada anymore.

“If you're a bad actor and you're from out of state and you came here yesterday, it caused a problem. You are not welcome in the state of Nevada. You are not welcome in Reno. If you came to cause destruction, go home! Get out of our state! Get out of our city because you're not part of what Reno is about. You're not part of what the state of Nevada is about.”

ZENDER: You know, downtown Reno was just starting to come back after the COVID shutdown. So, what has this been like for business owners?

BOGER: This has been really tough. A lot of them have seen a decrease in business, to say at least, and a lot of them haven't been open for months. I talked to John Fernandez, one of the co-owners of Bluefin Poke. He says that they were planning to open today, but then all the damage happened. They were concerned that they weren't going to be open, but they had outpouring of support from the community. People stopped by, they were helping to clean. One lady even came back and gave him a stack of money to help with repairs. So, you know, he says he's really thankful for that community outpouring.

“It was a scary thing. I never thought this is going to happen here in Reno. You know, the community [support] was overwhelming. I'm speechless on what they did. Just coming together and helping out. You know? It's like, I couldn't thank them enough.”

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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