Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird issued on Sunday an emergency declaration and a 10-hour curfew for Lincoln to begin at 8 p.m. following two nights of protests and riots in Lincoln.
The curfew will end at 6 a.m. on Monday, and the public will not be allowed in public places to preserve the health, safety and property of community members, according to Gaylor Baird. Exceptions include people who must leave for work and those who must leave to seek medical attention or assistance from law enforcement.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert declared a state of emergency and a similar curfew that will instead last for 72 hours. She said in a news conference that, in her authority, she can declare the state of emergency and curfew for 72 hours but may ask the city council to extend it.
The curfews issued at the same time represent a unified front, Gaylor Baird said, and will help to ensure violence is minimized and not shared between the two cities. Armed counter-protestors attended protests the past two nights, she said, so the curfews are to help with safety.
“Whether you are black, white or brown, all Americans should live their lives free from fear and violence,” Gaylor Baird said. “No matter what you look like, or what neighborhood you live in, all of our community members here in Lincoln deserve to feel safe, respected and that they belong.”
Gaylor Baird and Stothert both said they have asked the Nebraska Army National Guard to assist local law enforcement and to serve as an additional force in the cities. Lincoln Chief of Police Jeff Bliemeister said he hopes the Lincoln Police Department will not issue any citations as a result of the curfew and that all people of Lincoln will be treated with respect.
“We want to treat every single person we encounter whether they are an advocate of the Lincoln police department or the policing profession or not, that's their right, but we're going to treat them with dignity and respect,” Bliemeister said. “You have my commitment and the commitment of those of our agency.”
Yesterday, many protests remained peaceful, Gaylor Baird said, with tensions rising after nightfall.
“At the rally at the Capitol yesterday, there was no bloodshed, no violence, it was a peaceful protest, but there was so much pain,” Gaylor Baird said. “Pain and anguish about the fact that to be black in America is to live in fear for your safety or for that of your children each and every day.”
As Nebraska also fights the COVID-19 health crisis, the curfews will help to minimize the spread of the virus and minimize the risk of further spread, according to Gaylor Baird.
“We think the curfew will have an added benefit of keeping people home and safe after they’ve had a chance to assemble … with socially distant practices in place,” she said.
Gaylor Baird said she believes people in Lincoln will observe the curfew and take care of one another, but LPD will enforce the curfew if necessary.
“It is my hope that today and going forward, this violence will not be part of the valid voice of those of us outraged by the murder of Mr. Floyd,” Bliemeister said.
In the coming days, Gaylor Baird said Lincoln will also create opportunities to hold dialogues about racism, injustice and inequality and create opportunities for healing led by people of color.
“The measure of our progress will be determined not only by what we do but who we become as a result of this,” she said.
Gaylor Baird said conservations and the work for justice cannot end and everyone has a responsibility to join the conversations in a peaceful manner.
“Our African American community does not have the luxury of ignoring injustice, and neither do the rest of us,” Gaylor Baird said. “It is all of our responsibility to create a society free from violence and discrimination, a community and nation where a person’s opportunity to succeed is not determined by the color of their skin. Every one of us has a role to play in making a more equitable, peaceful and just future possible.”
Karissa Schmidt contributed to the reporting of this story.