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'It's reaching a boiling point': What civil unrest looked like in Dallas on Saturday night, and what's ahead

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the possibility of a curfew is being discussed by city leaders.

Protests that began peacefully Saturday afternoon in downtown Dallas took a turn after protesters clashed with police around 4 p.m. The civil unrest became chaotic across the city later that night as property was vandalized, stores were looted and several people were hurt. 

One man confronted people in the streets with a machete before they attacked him, Dallas police said. 

More events calling attention to racial injustice are planned for later Sunday afternoon in the city, including a prayer gathering outside Dallas police headquarters.

The city may be placed under a curfew if that's what law enforcement leaders feel they need to keep control, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said during an interview on WFAA on Sunday morning.

About 90 people were arrested overnight, “a large majority” of whom, the mayor said, were not from Dallas.

"I think that is a telling fact. We have people coming into Dallas who are not our residents causing mischief," he said. 

Just before 11 p.m., at least 74 people had been arrested in incidents downtown, with the largest group -- 36 individuals -- arrested at 1500 Young Street, according to police. 

Another 15 people were taken into custody just after midnight on Sunday for allegedly vandalizing buildings. Officers also recovered three guns and a taser near Field Street and Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

Clashes between protesters, looters and police officers lasted throughout the evening, as state troopers and Irving police joined Dallas officers as they tried to control the crowd.

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Similar scenes played out in cities across America on Saturday: protesters and rioters facing down with lines of police. Canisters of tear gas and rubber bullets shot off to disperse crowds. Squad cars damaged and set ablaze.

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Initially, about 700 protesters took to the streets of downtown peacefully early in the afternoon in response to the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Police officers were involved in both of their deaths.

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Johnson said it is important that the different groups of people taking to the streets are properly distinguished. 

There are "legitimate protesters" who want to bring attention to their cause but not doing anything illegal, he explained, as well as bored onlookers who have been "cooped up in the house for two months" and come to watch the protests. And then there are people who have come out "to engage in mischief and criminal activity."  

"They are the ones with the rocks in their hands walking down the streets and they are not there to protest. They are not protesters," he said. "When they're attacking folks, it's not 'the protesters have attacked' or 'protest has turned violent.' They were never there to protest in the first place." 

But the difficulty, he said, is "you have no idea who's who."

Those who have taken to the street to protest, though, are just trying to speak out on the real issue of racial injustice, Johnson explained. 

"It's reaching a boiling point," he said. "And combining it with a pandemic where no one is going to work anymore and people are staying at home [means] people have time to take to the streets now and make their voices heard."  

City leaders will meet on Sunday to discuss how to handle the civil unrest moving forward and best practices when dealing with "an influx of people into our city who are here to do no good," Johnson said. 

Spokespeople for NorthPark Center and Galleria Dallas said both malls would be closed Sunday, and Target leaders have closed six locations in Dallas and dozens more across the country as the civil unrest continues to unfold.

Racial justice organizations including the Dallas Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression will hold a vigil at 3 p.m. at the Freedman's African Memorial Park and Cemetery on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas "for black lives that have been murdered by the police and a healing space for those of us constantly traumatized by policing in America." 

Next Generation Action Network is hosting a demonstration in front of the Dallas County jail at 3 p.m. to demand the release of protesters. 

A prayer gathering will be held in front of Dallas police headquarters by a number of clergy on Sunday at 5 p.m. to "pray for justice and against racism."

And in McKinney, a youth-led protest held by March For Our Lives Greater Dallas is planned for 5:30 p.m. in front of that city's police department.  

WFAA staff contributed to this report. 

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