Roanoke protest on Saturday ends not long after firework thrown at officers

Organizers say this was not the same group as downtown protesters from Saturday afternoon

During protests early on May 31, 2020, someone threw a firework at police officers. That's when officers deemed the gathering as an unlawful assembly.


It appears that everyone has gone home after police ordered the group to disperse and fired pepper bullets in an effort to disperse them.

About a half dozen people were arrested during Saturday and Sunday’s protests, according to the Roanoke Police Department.

Officers arrested one man who they said had a stolen gun in his possession. Video of his arrest is below. He faces charges of possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a firearm while inciting a riot and unlawful assembly.

1:22 A.M. UPDATE

Police fired pepper rounds at the ground near the small crowd in an effort to disperse the group.

Only about five people remain.

1:16 A.M. UPDATE

Police have given protesters a final warning before arresting them for unlawful assembly.

Most people are heeding that warning and leaving.

1:07 A.M. UPDATE

Police have just given protesters three minutes to leave after someone threw some type of firework at officers.

Those who remain will be charged unlawful assembly, according to police.

1:00 A.M. UPDATE

A group of protesters are again back outside the Roanoke Police Department building.

There are about 100 to 150 people in the group. While some have left, others have joined the group.

This group started at the Valley View Target, then went to Burlington on Hershberger Road, then to the Sheetz across from the Berglund Center, from there, to the police department building and then around the block into downtown at the city market building. After spending some time there, the group went back up to police building , walked round the block, and returned to the police department building, that they’re now outside of.

The crowd right now is younger than those who were out earlier.

The group out right now is not the same as the group that organized on Saturday afternoon

Below is a map of the route protesters have taken throughout the night since they started at the Valley View Walmart around 8 p.m.:

11:45 P.M. UPDATE

11:30 P.M. UPDATE

Protesters have made their way to the end of the market in downtown Roanoke.

According to the Roanoke Police Department, their plan is to let the protesters continue to peacefully demonstrate. Barricades of officers have been placed around the police department, the courthouse and the jail.

10:45 P.M. UPDATE

Protesters started at the Roanoke City Police Station and are now making their way through downtown.

Demonstrators can be heard chanting “black lives matter,” “no justice, no peace,” “I can’t breathe” and “hands up, don’t shoot.”

According to our crew on the ground, protesters have broken the line twice and law enforcement officers say they will use tear gas or pepper spray if necessary. Authorities have given a time warning to protesters.

Virginia State Police, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office and the Roanoke City Police Department are working together on crowd control.

Several people have been detained throughout the night, and one person was taken away in an ambulance for what appeared to be heat exhaustion.


Roanoke city manager Bob Cowell has released a statement on the protests that are moving throughout the city, forcing several businesses to close in their wake.

"I commend those that peacefully gathered today to exercise their right to assemble and vocalize their understandable anger with the events that occurred in Minneapolis. I also thank the Roanoke Police Department - VA for their work to ensure the safety of those assembled.

I join Mayor Lea and Chief Roman in stating that unlawful activities such as those that occurred in separate events earlier this evening in the Valley View area will not be tolerated.

The City will continue to support those that peacefully exercise their rights and will do what is necessary to protect lives and property from those that choose to engage in unlawful activities."

9:40 P.M. UPDATE

A group of protesters has moved to the Sheetz across from the Berglund Center. Demonstrators can be heard chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.”

Private security at the gas station has come out to try and keep the peace between the crowd and law enforcement.

9:15 P.M. UPDATE

A group of protesters is on the move from the Burlington Coat Factory to another location.

Martin’s Downtown Bar and Grill is closing immediately. According to management, they have been told to shut down by city officials because of the protests moving throughout Roanoke.

8:45 P.M. UPDATE

There is a small group of people protesting across from the Roanoke City Jail.

8:30 P.M. UPDATE

One person has been detained and others in the crowd say that pepper spray has been used as protests continue at the Valley View location of Target in Roanoke.

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea and police chief Sam Roman are at the scene.

In an interview with one of our crews at the scene, Mayor Sherman Lea says he is extremely disappointed.

Lea says he is concerned because it is starting to get dark and worries the situation could turn into the death and serious damage that has been seen in other cities nationwide. He tells 10 News that he will continue to follow the crowd.

Organizers from the peaceful protest in downtown Roanoke on Saturday afternoon said this is not the same group that was demonstrating downtown.

According to our crew at the scene, there are hundreds of officers responding to another large protest at the Valley View Walmart. There also appears to be property damage at the store.


Target in Roanoke is no longer accepting customers as of 7:25 Saturday.

The store usually closes ay 9 p.m., but store management says they’re taking precautions from protests going on in the area.

10 News has a crew on the scene.

About the Authors:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a content producer in July 2018.