Reno Mayor, Nevada Governor address rioting and outside agitators

On Sunday May 31, 2020, Reno Mayor Hillary Shieve and Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak held a press conference to discuss the unrest at Reno City Hall the night before - photo: Brian Bahouth/The Ally

In the wake of riots at Reno City Hall last night, this morning, volunteers scrubbed graffiti from downtown buildings, bridges, and the Reno Police Station. Workers replaced City Hall’s smashed windows.

Today at noon, on the sidewalk in front of the downtown Reno Police Station, Mayor Hillary Shieve, Governor Steve Sisolak, and Reno police officials held a press conference to discuss the riot.

City of Reno workers repair damage to City Hall during a riot last night – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Ally

According to Reno police officials and Mayor Shieve, the initial organizers of the peaceful rally to protest the killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody, are not responsible for the damage to Reno City Hall and subsequent rioting in the street.

“Yesterday afternoon, we saw a very peaceful protest. And that was important for voices to be heard, and then you have people that came that were not part of that protest that wanted to incite violence on our city.

“And we are a country actually in mourning right now. We are a city in mourning. Cities across the country are morning for Mr. Floyd. And so we have to do whatever we can to make sure as leaders we do better. That is really important for transparency, human rights and justice,” Mayor Shieve said.

With unrest in Las Vegas and Reno yesterday, Governor Sisolak spoke to the reason for the protests.

“The majority of Nevadans yesterday did a good job. They really did. They peacefully protested, making their voices heard about the injustices that have been faced by the black communities throughout our country, and those injustices will be addressed. It’s our job as elected officials to address those injustices, not just to pay lip service, to address them and understand.

“I can’t understand, being a white man, a privileged white man, what it’s like dealing with the situations that they’re in, but I can tell you this, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that we address the issues that they’re facing on a daily basis, that our country is facing,” Sisolak said.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office arrested 23 people in relation to the riot at City Hall. Of those arrested, 16 are residents of Reno, 4 are from Sparks, and the others are from Fallon, Truckee and Anderson, California.

The City of Reno arrested 21 individuals related to the riot, mostly for minor offenses like unlawful assembly, ignoring curfew or resisting a police officer. According to Acting Chief of Police Tom Robinson, 12 of those individuals claimed to be local, but they did not have any documentation proving their places of residence. Reno PD is trying to determine where those arrested live.

Acting Chief Robinson spoke directly to those who spray painted police headquarters.

“Yesterday was something that really took us back. I’m personally disgusted with what happened to the station and what happened to City Hall. And we will be pursuing charges against the individuals who caused the damage to the police station and City Hall.

“It’s a police station. There’s surveillance everywhere. We’ve got tons of cameras, so we’re coming for you. You know who you are, and we will too,” Robinson said.

Acting Reno Chief of Police Tom Robinson said he is confident more than half of the suspects arrested during last night’s riot were organized and from California – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Ally

Former Chief of Police and now Acting Reno City Manager Jason Soto said citizen safety was the primary goal of last night’s police work, and according to Soto, there were no injuries to citizens or officers, “outside of a few scrapes and bruises.”

With all the attention on the rioting at City Hall, Soto described a much broader tactical situation that taxed the city’s 330 officer force.

“A lot of these demonstrators I believe are from out of this area. That was the intel that we received,” Soto said. “So we had to shut down our freeways, shut down every exit, shut down every entry into the City of Reno. That is logistically challenging with the numbers that we had of men and women at the Reno Police Department, but we did it and we did it safely.”

Jason Soto is the former Reno chief of police and is now the acting Reno city manager – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Ally

When asked about why Reno police believe half of the people arrested last night came from outside the area, Acting Chief Robinson said the force relied on several sources of information.

“First of all, we got information from the courts that the 12 individuals we arrested claiming Nevada residency, couldn’t be verify there [in court].

“The other thing is, of course, we had a lot of undercover assets out last night, following crowds and a lot of California license plates from a lot of these individuals, and they seem pretty organized parking in the same locations and parking lots full of California license plates. So our suspicion is based on that information,” Robinson said.

Governor Sisolak became louder when he addressed those who may have come from outside the region to incite violence at an otherwise peaceful protest.

“We know there was a small subset as the mayor refers to as ‘bad actors.’ And we know they do not represent anywhere near the majority of the group that was out here yesterday. And I’m going to tell you something, and I’m a little more blunt maybe than the Mayor is, a little more forceful.

“But if you’re a bad actor, and you’re from out of state, and you came here yesterday to cause a problem, you are not welcome in the State of Nevada. You are not welcome in Reno,” the Governor said, voice shaking. “If you came to cause destruction, go home, get out of our state, get out of our city, because you’re not part of what Reno is about. You’re not part of what the State of Nevada is about.”

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak was clearly angered with people from outside Nevada intentionally inciting violence at an otherwise peaceful protest – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Ally

Governor Sisolak turned the focus on those who are from Nevada and participated in the destruction of property.

“I want you to look at what you did. I want you to think about what you did, the damages you did to government property, the damages you did to small businesses that are just starting to reopen as a result of COVID-19.

“And think about what you’ve done to those families, to those lives. Take a good hard look at what you did. This is our home. This is where our kids go to school. This is where we live. This is where we work and you have to respect other people. This destruction does not do anything for the memory of Mr. Floyd, nothing. You’re bringing disdain. And that’s not right.”

A volunteer painted over graffiti on the Reno Central Police Station on Sunday May 31, 2020 – photo: Brian Bahouth/The Ally

Mayor Shieve said she was out touring the city early Sunday morning.

“Love lives here. Love lives here, not hate,” Shieve said. “At six o’clock in the morning there were hundreds of people starting to line our streets in the City of Reno showing their love, their gratitude for our entire police department, your entire community. It was incredible. It was something I’ve never ever seen before. And that’s the Reno that we are. That’s the Reno that I absolutely know and love.”


Brian Bahouth is the editor of the Sierra Nevada Ally. He has been a public media journalist since 1994 and has lived in Reno since 2000. He first came to northern Nevada to be news director at KUNR, Reno Public Radio and has subsequently filed scores of reports for National Public Radio, Nevada Public Radio, Capital Public Radio and KVMR in Nevada City, California. He is co-founder of KNVC community radio in Carson City. Support his work.