Another night of unrest in every corner of the country left charred and shattered landscapes in dozens of American cities Sunday as years of festering frustrations over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police boiled over in expressions of rage met with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Cars and businesses were torched, the words “I can’t breathe” were spray-painted all over buildings, a fire in a trash bin burned near the gates of the White House, and thousands marched peacefully through city streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.
His death is one of a litany of racial tragedies that have thrown the country into chaos amid the coronavirus pandemic that has left millions out of work and killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S., including disproportionate numbers of black people.
“We’re sick of it. The cops are out of control,” protester Olga Hall said in Washington, D.C. “They’re wild. There’s just been too many dead boys.”
People set fire to police cars, threw bottles at police officers and busted windows of storefronts, carrying away TVs and other items even as some protesters urged them to stop. In Indianapolis, police were investigating multiple shootings, including one that left a person dead amid the protests — adding to deaths in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.
In Minneapolis, the city where the protests began, police, state troopers and National Guard members moved in soon after an 8 p.m. curfew took effect to break up protests, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to clear streets outside a police precinct and elsewhere.
At least 13 police officers were injured in Philadelphia when peaceful protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. 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. Several people were knocked to the ground, and it was unclear if anyone was hurt.
“The mistakes that are happening are not mistakes. They’re repeated violent terrorist offenses, and people need to stop killing black people,” Brooklyn protester Meryl Makielski said.
Few corners of America were untouched, from protesters setting fires inside Reno’s city hall, to police launching tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators in Fargo, North Dakota. In Salt Lake City, demonstrators flipped a police car and lit it on fire. Police said six people were arrested and a police officer was injured after being struck in the head with a baseball bat.
Police have arrested at least 1,669 people in 22 cities since Thursday, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Nearly a third of those arrests came in Los Angeles, where the governor declared a state of emergency and ordered the National Guard to back up the city’s 10,000 police officers as dozens of fires burned across the city.
The damage in U.S. cities came as many Americans plan to return to in-person church services on Sunday for the first time in several weeks since the pandemic forced a ban on large gatherings. Pastors in pulpits across the country will likely be urging peace amid the rubble of riots.
President Donald Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics Saturday night, commending the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and saying police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the violence as he continued to express common cause with those demonstrating after Floyd’s death.
“The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” Biden said in a statement Saturday night.
Overnight curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
Nevertheless, thousands of protesters ignored the restrictions and vows of a forceful police response to take to the Minneapolis streets for a fourth straight night, as the anger stoked by the death of George Floyd in police custody spread to more cities across the U.S.
The Pentagon on Saturday ordered the Army to put military police units on alert to head to the city on short notice at President Donald Trump’s request, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders who did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations. The rare step came as the violence spread to other cities: a man shot dead in Detroit, police cars battered in Atlanta and skirmishes with police in New York City.
Minneapolis police said shots had been fired at law enforcement officers during the protests but no one was injured.
As the night dragged on, fires erupted across the city's south side, including at a Japanese restaurant, a Wells Fargo bank and an Office Depot. Many burned for hours, with firefighters again delayed in reaching them because areas weren't secure.
Shortly before midnight, scores of officers on foot and in vehicles moved in to curb the violence, one day after city and state leaders faced blowback for their handling of the crisis. On Thursday, protesters had torched a police station soon after it was abandoned by police and went on to burn or vandalize dozens of businesses.
Looting and vandalism also gripped several major American cities as protesters vented rage over the death of an unarmed black man after a white police officer knelt on his neck as he lay on the ground following arrest.
Minneapolis mayor ordered a tactical police retreat from a police station that was set ablaze. Thursday night's disturbances in Minneapolis also spread into the adjacent city of St. Paul, the state capital, with fires and vandalism breaking out there.
The Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN reporter reporting live on television early Friday morning while covering the Minneapolis protests, without giving any reason, and led him and three crew members away in handcuffs. Black reporter Omar Jimenez had just shown a protester being arrested when about half a dozen white police officers surrounded him.
Sympathy protests erupted on Wednesday in Los Angeles and Thursday in Denver, with freeway traffic blocked in both cities. In Phoenix, protesters faced off with police in riot gear at City Hall, and a rally was held at the Arizona state Capitol. The New York Police Department carried out more than 40 arrests during the George Floyd protests on Thursday, as reported by CNN.
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