Americans awoke yesterday to charred and glass-strewn streets in dozens of cities after another night of unrest fueled by rage over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police, who responded to the violence with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Tens of thousands marched peacefully through streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on Monday last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.
However, many demonstrations sank into chaos as night fell: Vehicles 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.
The fury sparked by Floyd’s death was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left millions out of work and killed more than 100,000 people in the US, including disproportionate numbers of black people.
“We’re sick of it. The cops are out of control,” protester Olga Hall said in Washington. “They’re wild. There’s just been too many dead boys.”
People set fire to squad cars, threw bottles at officers and busted windows of storefronts, carrying away TVs and other items, even as some protesters urged them to stop.
In Indianapolis, Indiana, multiple shootings were reported, including one that left a person dead amid the protests, adding to deaths in Detroit, Michegan, and Minneapolis in the past few days.
In Minneapolis, police, state troopers and National Guard members moved in soon after an 8pm curfew took effect on Saturday night to break up the demonstrations.
At least 13 police officers were injured in Philadelphia, and at least four police vehicles were torched.
In New York City, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets. A video showed two New York Police Department 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. 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.
Overnight curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
Few corners of the US were untouched, from protesters setting fires inside Reno’s city hall in Nevada, to police launching tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators in Fargo, North Dakota. In Salt Lake City, Utah, demonstrators flipped a police car and lit it on fire.
By daybreak, cleanup had already began in Nashville, Tennessee, along Broadway Street after protesters broke windows, lit fires and destroyed light poles. Police said in a tweet that at least 30 businesses were damaged.
US President Donald Trump on Saturday night appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics, commending the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis, declaring: “No games!” and saying that police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”
Former US vice president Joe Biden condemned the violence as he continued to express common cause with those demonstrating.
“The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” Biden said.
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