NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville Mayor John Cooper has signed Executive Order No. 9, declaring a state of civil emergency after ‘I Will Breathe’ protests turned violent and led to vandalism including a fire at the Metro Courthouse.

Earlier, Cooper condemned protesters who continued to destroy the city, saying ‘We cannot let today’s message of reform descend into further violence’ and telling them to go home.

Mayor Cooper later released a video just after 11 p.m. saying that the city “has been through a lot over the last three months” and that “tonight’s unacceptable vandalism does not define Nashville.”

“Our Metro courthouse, iconic for its role in the civil rights movement, was the site of much of tonight’s reprehensible vandalism,” said Mayor Cooper, “Sixty years ago, 3,000 nonviolent protesters marched to that same courthouse in a milestone moment for integration, and yet that courthouse tonight was defaced and set on fire.”

Mayor Cooper said officers engaged in an honest dialogue with protesters outside MNPD’s central precinct, and officers addressed the vandalism “with great restraint and professionalism.”

“Now, we have responded to maintain public safety, if you mean our city harm we will arrest and prosecute you,” said Mayor Cooper, “We will move beyond the events of tonight and come together as a city, but I’m calling for your help and your prayers to help us come together.”

Metro Police issued a curfew for the entire city beginning at 10 p.m. and strongly urging those causing harm to leave. They earlier deployed gas on Broadway to disperse crowds and deployed gas at the courthouse to protect the building after protesters set it on fire.

WeGo Public Transit has also suspended service across the city for the rest of the evening out of precaution.

The curfew remains in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday.

The latest on the protests and riots following the “I Will Breathe” rally in Nashville:

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