Governor Cooper has called up the National Guard to Raleigh and Charlotte after peaceful protests turned chaotic Saturday night, resulting in the destruction of property.  

Raleigh’s protest began as a peaceful yet powerful demonstration opposing systemic police violence after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer. But later in the evening, things took a dark turn. Police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and, in an ensuing riot, countless windows downtown were shattered, businesses were looted, and fires were started. 

Twelve people were arrested and five police officers were hospitalized following the riot. 

On Sunday evening, Cooper expressed his grief at those events but also his support of the protesters who gathered to make their voices heard. Their pain, he said, is valid, and their voices must be heard. 

“These scars mark generations of trauma that black people and other communities of color continue to suffer, trauma that has too often gone unrecognized in our country. We’ve had moments of heightened awareness, some here in our own state, but they faded from the headlines too fast,” Cooper said.

“When you see George Floyd on the ground begging for air, you realize that we have so much work to do,” Cooper continued. “For people of color, these are not just headlines though, they are life and death warnings. They are stark instructions from parents to children on how to stay safe in their own communities. They are heartbreaking memorials for people who should not be dead.”

But violence, Cooper said, will not be tolerated. To that end, he has called in the National Guard at the request of local law enforcement. The guardsmen have been trained in “civil disturbances” and protecting public infrastructure.

The widespread destruction is just another blow for downtown businesses that have endured more than two months of financial losses during the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday morning, the streets downtown were covered in shattered glass from windows, trash from upturned garbage bins, and empty tear gas canisters. 

Cooper condemned the violence as a distraction from the meaningful protest that occurred earlier. 

“That’s wrong and must be stopped, but I fear the cry of the people is being drowned out by the noise of these riots,” Cooper said. “Let me be clear about one thing: People are more important than property. Black lives do matter.”

He continued: “Systemic racism faced by people of color must be addressed.” Cooper called on North Carolinian to do more than talk about ending racism—“do the work.” 

“If we don’t, we haven’t learned anything,” Cooper said. 

Due to the damage, Wake County will close the courthouse, Justice Center, county office building, and Public Safety Center on Monday. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at 

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