Police and protesters interact at the corner of North Prince and West Chestnut streets in Lancaster on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Photo: Joyous Snyder)
Police and protesters interact at the corner of North Prince and West Chestnut streets in Lancaster on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Photo: Joyous Snyder)

Mayor Danene Sorace made an impassioned plea Monday for Lancaster residents to stay home, saying armed white nationalists from outside Lancaster are attempting to foment violence during peaceful protests of police misconduct.

"Please stay home. Please stay safe," the mayor said, her voice breaking.

More than 1,000 people thronged Lancaster's streets Saturday and Sunday, protesting the death of George Floyd during a police arrest in Minneapolis.

While both days were mostly peaceful, police near Lancaster's police station were pelted multiple times Sunday with rocks and plastic bottles filled with cayenne pepper. White individuals were responsible in every instance, police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser said.

Community and faith leaders join hands for a prayer during protests at the corner of North Prince and West Chestnut streets in Lancaster on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Kneeling at right is Mayor Danene Sorace. (Photo: Todd Gusler)
Community and faith leaders join hands for a prayer during protests at the corner of North Prince and West Chestnut streets in Lancaster on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Kneeling at right is Mayor Danene Sorace. (Photo: Todd Gusler)

Berkihiser said were individuals at Sunday's demonstration carrying sidearms and wearing body armor and police have "definite evidence" that white nationalists were present.

He said police made seven arrests over the weekend, one on Saturday and six on Sunday, all for low-level offenses.

The mayor and chief were joined by City Council members and members of Lancaster's Community & Police Working Group. In the interest of public safety, please stay home, they said.

"It is not our intention at all to silence you," City Councilman Xavier Garcia-Molina said. "Our lives need to be safe."

Organizers of the weekend's events had called for a further protest starting at 11 a.m. Monday at Penn Square.

Sorace said police are combing through hours of video footage and collaborating with state police to identify those attempting to stir up trouble.

"We cannot let them win," she said. "We cannot let them incite violence in our community."

Tim Stuhldreher