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George Floyd: protests and unrest coast to coast as US cities impose curfews

Tense protests over the death of George Floyd and other police killings of black men spread across the US on Saturday night as mayors around the country imposed curfews and several governors called in the national guard amid scenes of violence, injuries and unrest.

After a Friday night that saw anger at police brutality erupt into rioting and unrest in cities across the country, authorities appeared intent on re-establishing order through increased shows of force.


Governors of six states, including Minnesota, where Floyd died on Monday, called out national guard troops. Many cities including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Louisville, Columbia, Denver, Portland, Milwaukee and Columbus, imposed curfews in anticipation of a restless night ahead.

A woman reacts after being sprayed by pepper spray next to the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Photograph: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

“We are in a position of strength tonight significantly greater than we were last night,” said Major General Jon Jensen of the Minnesota national guard at a briefing Saturday evening. As of Saturday evening, police had arrested nearly 1,400 in 17 cities since Thursday, according to a tally by the AP.


Saturday’s demonstrations had started early but as the night drew on sporadic violence broke out again, seeing businesses torched, police cars set on fire and protesters injured and arrested.


A protester pours water in the eyes of a friend affected by teargas during a protest in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters.


The violence happened across America from coast to coast and from big cities to small ones. Beyond the major metropolitan areas, protesters clashed with police in cities including Tulsa, Oklahoma; Little Rock, Arkansas; Albany, New York; Fargo, North Dakota; and Raleigh, North Carolina.


Near Union Square, in the heart of Manhattan, a police vehicle was on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air. In Brooklyn, protesters and police clashed for hours in Flatbush. In Los Angeles, a police post was burned in a shopping mall while nearby shops were looted. In Nashville, Tennessee, a historic courthouse was set on fire and in Salt Lake City, Utah, vehicles were burned and a man with a bow and arrow was arrested after he aimed it at protesters.


Protests continued in Minneapolis on Saturday night. There were running confrontations with police who seemed to adopt a much harder line to enforce a curfew than they had during the violence on Friday. After breaking up a march of several hundred people and dispersing protesters into residential neighbourhoods off the main drag, officers pursued and fired baton rounds at both protesters and residents who had set up barricades to defend their streets. By the early hours of Sunday officials in Minneapolis said they had succeeded in stopping the violence.

Protestors form a human chain in front of police officers near the 5th police precinct in Minneapolis Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

“I don’t like the police and I don’t like the protesters,” one Latino resident said. “The police abandoned us for days and now they’re here shooting at us defending ourselves.”


Numerous media outlets, including CNN and MSNBC, reported that their staff covering protests in the city had been hit by rubber bullets fired at them. Media outlets and journalists in numerous cities reported being targeted by police with chemical agents or less-lethal rounds, and several reporters were arrested.


The Department of Defense took the rare step of putting military police units on alert to go to Minneapolis. The Minnesota governor, Tim Walz, had not requested such assistance, and said he had already ordered the largest deployment of state national guard troops since the second world war.


Demonstrators smash a police vehicle in the Fairfax District, in Los Angeles, California Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Donald Trump ignited tensions, lashing out at “anarchists” he blamed for stoking the deadly unrest and urging the Minneapolis mayor to act more forcefully against demonstrators there.


Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden struck a different tone, calling protests against police brutality “right and necessary” but urging an end to violence. “The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” he said in a statement.


In Los Angeles, a protest started out peacefully in Pan Pacific Park before small groups of protesters set police cars on fire, and police fired rubber bullets in return. After the 8pm curfew, but before darkness had fallen, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles asked the governor to send up to 700 members of the national guard, according to the AP.


Firefighters put out a fire on a SUV of New York police department in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

In New York, bottles were hurled at police officers attempting to push back marchers in Times Square, while hundreds more protesters gathered in the East Village. Protests had broken out in different neighbourhoods across New York, fires were set on streets and police were seen beating protesters with batons.


“We will not tolerate actions like these against New York City police officers,” the city’s police department said in a tweet announcing the arrest of “multiple people” for throwing molotov cocktails at police vehicles. The US attorney’s office subsequently announced that it had filed federal charges against three people over the incidents.


Elsewhere in the city, a video of two police vehicles driving through protesters blocking a road quickly went viral. Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the action of the police driving the cars, further angering New Yorkers. “If those protesters had just gotten out of the way we wouldn’t be talking about this situation,” he said. “I’m not going to blame officers who were trying to deal with an absolutely impossible situation.”

People protesting in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Image

In Atlanta, where three officers were injured and 71 people arrested in violence early Saturday, up to 1,500 national guard troops were deployed throughout the city at the order of the governor, Brian Kemp.


Social media posts showed flames and thick black smoke billowing from a fire in downtown Philadelphia, where an earlier peaceful protest ended with cars being set ablaze, and law enforcement vehicles came under attack in and Chicago.


In Washington DC, protesters clashed with the Secret Service and police outside the White House for the second successive day. Chanting “I can’t breathe”, “Black Lives Matter” and “Fuck Donald Trump!”, hundreds of demonstrators circled the White House grounds. Tensions intensified throughout the evening. A car and a dumpster near the White House were set on fire.

Military Police face off with protesters across from the White House on May 30, 2020 in Washington DC. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Trump announced on Saturday that the justice department was conducting a civil rights investigation in the death of George Floyd.


But the president also stirred controversy by labelling the protesters as “anarchists”, and claiming, without evidence, that political opponents were orchestrating the scenes of violence.


“The memory of George Floyd is being dishonoured by rioters, looters and anarchists,” Trump said, speaking at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center after watching the launch of the historic SpaceX mission.


“The violence and vandalism is being led by Antifa and other radical left wing groups who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings. We cannot and must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities. I will not allow angry mobs to dominate.”


People gather at a rally Saturday, 30 May 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd. Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP

The comments matched his incendiary rhetoric of earlier in the day, when he threatened protesters who gathered at the White House with “vicious dogs and ominous weapons”.


His words drew an immediate rebuke from Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington DC, for their perceived racial undertones.


“To make a reference to vicious dogs is no subtle reminder to African Americans of segregationists who let dogs out on women, children and innocent people in the south,” Bowser said. 


George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said Saturday he had briefly spoken to Trump about the death of his brother. “It was so fast. He didn’t give me the opportunity to even speak. It was hard. I was trying to talk to him but he just kept like pushing me off like, ‘I don’t want to hear what you’re talking about,’” Philonise told MSNBC.


In Minneapolis on Friday, thousands of people had ignored a curfew, with crowds overwhelming law enforcement, taking over a police station and smashing and burning shops.


In Atlanta, people set a police car ablaze and broke windows at CNN’s headquarters. In Oakland, San Jose and Los Angeles, protesters blocked highways and police fired teargas. In Louisville, Kentucky, police fired projectiles at a reporter and her cameraman during a live shot.


Protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd ignited once again on Friday, as Minneapolis faced another night of chaos and demonstrators clashed with police in cities across the US.


In Detroit, Michigan, a 21-year-man was shot and killed during protests on Friday night when an unknown person fired into a crowd from a vehicle. 

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