RACINE, WI – The COP House, 1146 Villa Street, was set on fire by protesters at about 2 a.m. Monday following a confrontation with police, according to Racine Police Chief Art Howell.

By 2:36 a.m., the fire had been put out, according to preliminary reports.

The night didn’t start out violent.

A small crowd started peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd, who was killed last week in Minneapolis in an officer-involved death, at about 10 p.m. Sunday at Monument Square. They held signs saying “Black Lives Matter,” “Black Power,” and yelled, “Why are you killing our babies?”

As the night went on, the crowd grew to hundreds of people.

Rumors on social media mentioned that Regency Mall had been looted, but that was not the case. Officers blocked the entrances to the Mall as a precaution.

Most people protested peacefully. But a few people jumped on cars and stood in the middle of Main Street. At about 1:15 a.m., the crowd marched to the Racine Police Department, 730 Center Street. The officers wore riot gear and stood in front of the building.

A few of the protesters confronted the police, called them names, and let off fireworks. The officers fired tear gas into the crowd. The crowd dispersed, and some went to the COP house on Villa Street.

“Even when they arrived on the scene at the COP House that was blown up, they started shooting teargas from like a block away into a crowd full of people,” said a witness who did not want to be named. “Most of (them) had nothing to do with it. Those people came out of their homes and stood out on the corner because the house, it literally blew up.”

Howell pointed out that peaceful protests are welcome, but require a permit.

“Perhaps the individuals who are out this evening are not aware of this fact; however, a permit is required for public gatherings of this nature,” Howell said. “All present will be notified of this fact and politely asked to disburse. Then, those who chose not to leave will find the streets blocked off.

“This will prevent vehicles from leaving after the initial warning and (if the) invitation to leave peacefully is ignored, arrests will be made if compliance cannot be gained through dialogue.”

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.