US cities battered by another night of violent protests

Multiple cities impose nighttime curfews and deploy additional law-enforcement resources as clashes across US resume

By: News Desk      Published: 12:08 PM, 31 May, 2020
US cities battered by another night of violent protests

Riots took hold of American cities Saturday night, as protests over the death of black man George Floyd at the hands of white policemen turned violent across the country for the second night in a row.

Standoffs intensified across the country as officials in Minneapolis vowed to take a harder line against unrest in the streets.

One person was killed and three others were injured when a gunman fired shots at a protest in Indianapolis.

Protesters who took to the streets in Minneapolis for the fifth straight night on Saturday met a more determined response from police officers and National Guard troops, as demonstrations escalated in dozens of cities across the country — an outpouring of national anger sparked by the death of the black man in police custody.

Soon after an 8 pm curfew took effect, the police in Minneapolis began arresting protesters and firing tear gas and other projectiles toward crowds, and the National Guard used a helicopter to dump water on a burning car.

The forceful response reflected the desire of authorities to halt the violent protests that have spread nationwide since George Floyd, 46, died after being pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer. There were still reports of violence and destruction: a fire on the roof of a shopping mall, a person who shot a gun at officers, and a group of people throwing items at the police. But state officials said around 11 pm local time that they were encouraged by the smaller crowds and apparent decrease in damage. Much of the city was empty shortly after midnight.

But even as aerial videos from Minneapolis showed police officers largely keeping demonstrators at bay, other cities were being overwhelmed, despite hastily imposed curfews.

Mayors ordered people of the streets in many of the nation’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami. And governors in at least eight states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Colorado and Tennessee, called up National Guard troops in an attempt to impose order, often with little success.

In Tennessee, the building that houses Nashville’s City Hall was set on fire. Two police vans in New York City were filmed plowing into protesters. In Washington, demonstrators set fires and smashed the windows of buildings near the White House. The police in Indianapolis said three people had been shot during the protests — not by police officers — including one person who was killed. And in Philadelphia, the Police Department said at least 13 officers had been injured during protests.

The demonstrations continued to escalate on Friday and Saturday even after Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was recorded kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness, was charged with third-degree murder.

President Trump has harshly criticized the unrest, and Attorney General William P. Barr warned on Saturday that people inflicting the destruction could face federal charges. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota said the people defying curfews and trying to instigate police were no longer protesting police brutality, but rather seeking to exploit Mr Floyd’s death for their own political motives.

Protests have taken place in at least 48 cities and have reached the gates of the White House in the days since the death of Mr Floyd in Minneapolis. The imposition of curfews by mayors appeared to be more widespread on Saturday than at any time since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

·         In Indianapolis, one person was killed and three others were injured when a gunman fired shots at a protest, the police said.

·         In Chicago, protesters scuffled with police on Saturday afternoon, burning at least one flag and marching toward the Trump International Hotel and Tower before dispersing. About 3,000 people took part in the protests, according to local news reports. Some vandalized police vehicles and left spray-painted buildings in their wake.

·         In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric M. Garcetti issued a curfew, a day after the police made more than 500 arrests. Police used batons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds and Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the National Guard.

·         In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed implemented a curfew as demonstratrs arrived outside her home to protest.

·         In Miami-Dade County, Fla., Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered a countywide curfew beginning at 11 p.m. after at least one police car was set ablaze near the Miami Police Department headquarters. Tear gas was also used to disperse crowds on Saturday evening in Jacksonville and Orlando.

·         In Washington, the National Guard was deployed outside the White House, where chanting crowds clashed with the Secret Service and attacked a Fox New reporter. Fires were set in Lafayette Park, just steps from the White House.

·         In Philadelphia, at least 13 police officers were injured when protesters began setting fires and became violent.

·         In New York City, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for a third day, gathering at marches in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and outside Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. In the late afternoon, protesters in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn confronted the police in a series of street melees, hurling empty bottles and pieces of debris at officers who responded with billy clubs and pepper spray. A video showed a police car driving into a crowd.

·         In Richmond, Va., two police officers at the State Capitol were hospitalized with leg injuries after being struck by a baseball bat and a beer bottle, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Earlier, the police fired tear gas at protesters, some of who launched fireworks and smashed windows.

The turmoil was on display a short distance from the White House, where President Trump had called earlier in the day for his supporters to rally. Instead, hundreds of protesters mobilized on the streets of the nation’s capital as tensions ratcheted higher.

Demonstrators hurled projectiles, including water bottles, fireworks and bricks, and wrested barricades from the police, who responded by lobbing canisters of tear gas into the crowd. Buildings up and down the streets near the White House were sprayed with graffiti, including the entrance of the Hay-Adams, a luxury hotel.

Nearby, scaffolding on a construction site behind the United States Chamber of Commerce could be seen on fire. The windows at the entrance of the building were smashed.

Around 11 pm, two cars were set ablaze on an adjacent block, and a local bank was vandalized, its windows broken and the numbers “666” sprayed across the front.

As police officers moved to secure the block, a Chevy Suburban was engulfed in a plume of black smoke; trees nearby were on fire. The crowds retreated into Farragut Square to regroup as helicopters circled overhead, and some split off back toward the White House.

President Trump had made a series of statements throughout the day that did little to tamp down the outrage nationwide. Speaking on the South Lawn of the White House, he criticized the authorities in Minnesota for allowing protests to turn violent, and offered the help of the military to contain further demonstrations.

In a series of tweets, he called demonstrators who gathered at the White House on Friday night “professionally managed so-called ‘protesters’” and suggested that his supporters would meet them. “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”

Later Saturday, speaking from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after observing the launch of a manned SpaceX rocket, Trump blamed the unrest in cities across the country on “Antifa and other radical left-wing groups,” drawing a distinction between “peaceful protesters” and other, more violent demonstrators.

“What we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or with peace,” Trump said. “The memory of George Floyd is being dishonoured by rioters, looters and anarchists.”–Agencies