US

Protests Triggered by George Floyd Death Rage in Multiple US Cities

By The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS—Tense protests over the death of George Floyd and other fatalities of black people while in police custody grew Saturday from New York to Tulsa to Los Angeles, with police cars set ablaze and reports of injuries mounting on all sides as the country convulsed through another night of unrest after months of coronavirus lockdowns.

Groups of violent protesters, often following peaceful demonstrations—which began in Minneapolis following Floyd’s death Monday after a police officer pressed a knee on his neck—have left parts of the city a grid of broken windows, burned-out buildings, and ransacked stores. The unrest has since become a national phenomenon as protesters decry years of deaths at police hands.

Tens of thousands of people were in the streets across the country, many of them not wearing masks or observing social distancing, raising concerns among health experts about the potential for spreading the coronavirus pandemic at a time when much of the country is in the process of reopening society and the economy.

After a tumultuous Friday night, racially diverse crowds took to the streets again for mostly peaceful demonstrations in dozens of cities from coast to coast. The previous day’s protests also started calmly, but many descended into violence later in the day.

— In Washington, the National Guard was deployed outside the White House, where chanting crowds were taunting Secret Service agents. Dressed in camouflage and holding shields, the troops stood in a tight line a few yards from the crowd, preventing them from pushing forward. President Donald Trump, who spent much of Saturday in Florida for the SpaceX rocket launch, landed on the lawn in the presidential helicopter at dusk and went inside without speaking to journalists.

— In Philadelphia, at least 13 officers were injured when peaceful protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. Other fires were set throughout downtown.

— In the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of a 1921 massacre of black people that left as many as 300 dead and the city’s thriving black district in ruins, protesters blocked intersections and chanted the name of Terence Crutcher, a black man killed by a police officer in 2016.

— In Seattle, police fired tear gas and stun grenades to try to disperse black-clad crowds that smashed downtown shopfronts, stole merchandise and tossed mannequins onto the street.

— In Los Angeles, protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” some within inches of the face shields of officers. Police used batons to move the crowd back and fired rubber bullets. One man used a skateboard to try to break a police SUV’s windshield. A spray-painted police car burned in the street.

— And in New York City, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets. A video showed two NYPD cruisers lurching into a crowd of demonstrators who were pushing a barricade against one of them and pelting it with objects, knocking several people to the ground. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who said local forces had been overmatched Friday in Minneapolis, fully mobilized the state’s National Guard and promised a massive show of force. The Guard announced Saturday it had more than 4,000 members responding to Minneapolis and would quickly have nearly 11,000.

“The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” Walz said. “It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”

Soon after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew went into force, lines of police cars and officers in riot gear moved in to confront protesters, firing tear gas to push away throngs of people milling around the city’s 5th police precinct station. The tougher tactics came after city and state leaders were criticized for not forcefully enough confronting days of violent and damaging protests that included protesters burning down a police station shortly after officers abandoned it.

Trump appeared to support the tougher tactics being used by law enforcement Saturday night. He commended the Guard deployment in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and also said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”

Overnight curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities nationwide, ranging from 6 p.m. in parts of South Carolina to 10 p.m. around Ohio. People were also told to be off the streets of Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Minneapolis—where thousands had ignored the same order Friday night.

More than 1,300 people have been arrested in 16 cities since Thursday, with more than 500 of those happening in Los Angeles on Friday.

The unrest comes at a time when most Americans have spent months inside over concerns surrounding the coronavirus, which the president has called an “invisible enemy.”

The events of the last 72 hours, seen live on national television, have shown that protesters are not paying attention to social distancing measures.

The officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck as he begged for air was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But many protesters are demanding the arrests of the three other officers involved.

Preliminary results from an autopsy have since suggested that Floyd, who was arrested for alleged fraud, died from a combination of heart disease and “potential intoxicants in his system” that were aggravated by the restraint placed on him by officers. Law enforcement officials nationwide have condemned Chauvin’s actions.

Floyd’s family have denounced the preliminary autopsy report, with family attorney Ben Crump saying, “The family does not trust anything coming from the Minneapolis Police Department. How can they?” They are demanding that an independent autopsy be performed.

Leaders in many affected cities have voiced outrage over Floyd’s killing and expressed sympathy for peaceful protesters’ concerns. But as the unrest intensified, they spoke of a desperate need to protect their cities and said they would call in reinforcements given the violence from some protests, which Attorney General William Barr said on Saturday appear to have been “planned, organized, and driven” by groups of outside radicals and agitators who are exploiting the situation in order to achieve “their own separate and violent agenda.”

Minnesota has steadily increased to 1,700 the number of National Guardsmen it says it needs to contain the unrest, and the governor is considering a potential offer of military police put on alert by the Pentagon.

Governors in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Texas also activated the National Guard after protests there turned violent overnight, while nighttime curfews were put in place in Portland, Oregon, Cincinnati and elsewhere.

Police in St. Louis were investigating the death of a protester who climbed between two trailers of a Fed Ex truck and was killed when it drove away. And a person was killed in the area of protests in downtown Detroit just before midnight after someone fired shots into an SUV, officers said. Police had initially said someone fired into the crowd from an SUV.

By Tim Sullivan and Stephen Groves. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.