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WATCH NOW: Lincoln protesters torch building, leave destruction
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WATCH NOW: Lincoln protesters torch building, leave destruction


Violent protesters torched a building, broke dozens of windows and sprayed graffiti on office buildings along Lincoln Mall during a second night of mayhem. 

What began as a peaceful rally culminated with law enforcement officers advancing on protesters outside the County-City Building shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday. The occasional volley of tear gas and rubber bullets continued well into Sunday morning.

Hours after crowds dispersed, however, Lincoln firefighters were called to a fire at Universal-Inland Insurance, housed in a multi-story building at 601 S. 12th St. 

The fire appeared to have spread through at least part of the first floor of the building, where broken windows gave view Sunday morning into soot-blackened offices. 

Broken windows and graffiti littered the stretch of Landmark Centre office buildings along Lincoln Mall between the County-City Building and the state Capitol.

By 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Robert Clayton, 26, was sweeping glass from broken bus stop windows.

"It's my city and I want to help clean it up," said Clayton, who grew up in northeast Lincoln and watched live coverage of the riot Saturday night from home. He said the true heroes were the ones who tried to stop the rioters and extinguish the fire.

Reportedly, two young men carrying fire extinguishers were briefly detained when they came out of a building when law enforcement was advancing.

Cris Petersen, who joined Clayton in cleaning up, had just dropped off doughnuts at the police department.

WATCH NOW: Lincoln Mall office building burned after protesters, police clash for second night

"I was up crying since 3 o'clock this morning and decided it's better to do nice things than nothing," she said.

Lancaster County employees Dean Daniel and Jerry Smith were scrubbing yellow paint from the chest of the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of the County-City Building, 555 S. 10th St.

Their boss, Jim Kohmetscher, the county facilities manager, said that for any cleanup volunteers who show up, "we'll give 'em brooms."

He said workers had cleared objects from around the building that could be used as weapons before Saturday's protest, but there were still broken windows. Blue paint splotches shot by protesters from paintball guns covered the front of the building.

Kohmetscher said he hoped there would not be a repeat Sunday night.

The organizer of a Black Lives Matter rally planned for Sunday afternoon said he is working to keep his event peaceful.

Organizer Kameron Neeman said he began coordinating with the Lincoln Police Department on the event days before an impromptu protest early Saturday morning at 27th and O streets turned violent.

Neeman said it's important to him, and to many others, to hold the protest now, the same week of George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“His murder is so fresh,” Neeman said. “It was so important for me to host this right away.”

Floyd's death has has sparked protests in cities throughout the country. Floyd, who was black and was handcuffed, died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, used his knee to pin down Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. Chauvin now faces third-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

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In Lincoln, the clash between protesters and police on Saturday heightened in the 11 o'clock hour as tear gas canisters were deployed on those in the crowd who lobbed objects, including fireworks, at law enforcement officers in riot gear.

Saturday night's violence followed less than 24 hours after incidents on Saturday morning centered in the area of 27th and O streets.

This time, protesters on Saturday evening criss-crossed the city, embarking from the state Capitol, walking 3 miles east to 48th and R streets and back downtown.

For the most part, the protest was peaceful as police attempted to keep their distance, even as protesters numbering in the hundreds moved across the city on heavily traveled O Street.

Any sense of peaceful protest changed, however, as protesters and law enforcement clashed on the steps of the County-City Building in the 11 o'clock hour.

Hours earlier, Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister spoke to the group that first gathered at the Capitol on Saturday afternoon, again condemning the actions of police in Minneapolis that led to George Floyd's death earlier this week and sparked protests across the country.

On Saturday morning, Bliemeister joined city leaders in a call for calm.

Saturday's protest in Lincoln started before 7 p.m. at the Capitol and moved north, with protesters chanting "No justice, no peace" and slowing traffic as they marched.

They turned west on O Street, chanting "I can't breathe" and "Hands up, don't shoot," then turned south toward the County-City Building while walking into oncoming traffic on 10th Street.

As they marched, some protesters used spray paint on the street, barricades and light posts.

By 8:15, the protesters had marched past the Capitol again and returned to O Street heading east. After pausing, the march continued eastward and reached 27th and O streets by 8:30, blocking all four directions of the intersection.

Some in the group began handing out water bottles as the protesters reached 48th and O, with people in the crowd saying they were there for the long haul.

Matt Steger said he joined the protest after his employer, a restaurant on O Street, decided to close early on Saturday.

The Rev. Tremaine Combs of Mount Zion Baptist Church followed Saturday's protest after speaking to the group at the Capitol.

He said he was out Saturday evening to combat injustice and inequality among certain races. While concerned about destruction of property, he said he understands the resentment many are feeling.

WATCH NOW: City officials call for calm after protest in Lincoln turns violent overnight

Earlier, a seemingly peaceful protest that started Friday night turned violent after a vehicle hit someone standing on O Street, Lincoln police said.

The violence Saturday morning centered on EZ Go, a convenience store at 26th and O streets that sat dark and encircled by crime tape as protesters passed Saturday night.

Police reported eight injuries and nine incidents of vandalism linked to the Saturday morning protest. Within hours, city leaders organized a news conference to urge calm and peaceful protests.

Ricketts, Lincoln chief condemn police action in death of George Floyd

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