Unrest grips dozens of US cities as police and protesters clash
May 31 2020 09:02 AM
A firework explodes behind a line of police officers next to the Colorado State Capitol as protests
A firework explodes behind a line of police officers next to the Colorado State Capitol as protests against the death of George Floyd continue in Denver, Colorado


Dozens of cities in the United States were seeing fiery clashes between police and protesters continue on Saturday night as the killing of George Floyd sparked massive unrest throughout the country.

In Minneapolis - where the African-American man died in police custody earlier this week - thousands of national guard soldiers were patrolling the streets on Saturday night and quickly cracked down on violent protests.

Meanwhile, violent outrage spread from the midwestern city to the entire country as people looted trendy stores in Los Angeles and set fire to a courthouse in Nashville, Tennessee.

In New York, video showed a police cruiser apparently ploughing through protesters who started to surround the vehicle and attack it.

 "It's clear that a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference in regards to the incident.

It is a "absolutely impossible situation" and the police officer needed to escape, de Blasio said.

Three people were also charged in the city with "using and attempting to use" molotov cocktails to "damage and destroy New York City Police Department (NYPD) vehicles," the US Attorney's Office of New York's Eastern District of New York said.

Curfews were across the US on Saturday night, affecting millions of people including in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and other major US cities, as authorities attempted to squash the growing chaos.

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz had already warned that Minneapolis residents should expect more violence on Saturday night, the fifth night straight that the city saw unrest.

Walz called on locals to stay home so authorities can remove what he contends are outside agitators, looking to sow "terror and destruction."  "These are not our neighbours," Walz said during a press conference. "Minnesotans you must stay in place tonight."   

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also claimed that the violent protests were being caused by people who "are not Minneapolis residents."   The outpouring of rage across the US has forced yet another reckoning about police treatment of African-Americans in the country, as authorities struggle to provide an outlet for the anger while attempting to quell unrest.

President Donald Trump has taken a highly partisan tone calling for a tougher crackdown on protesters and accusing them of being "radical-left criminals."  He said Antifa - a loose network of people that often promote militant anarchism - are behind the unrest that was sparked by Floyd's death.

"My administration will stop mob violence and will stop it cold," Trump said, adding that the federal government is coordinating with local authorities across the nation, as the response becomes increasingly militarized.

After a night of unrest on Friday, largely peaceful protests took over streets in major cities throughout the country during daytime hours of Saturday, including in New Jersey's Newark and Pennsylvania's Philadelphia, among others.

Protesters held signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and chanted "I can't breathe," among Floyd's last words.

As the day progressed many of the demonstrations morphed into clashes, filled with burning dumpsters, tear gas and rubber bullets.

"I'm asking all of Los Angeles to take a deep breath and to step back, for a moment," Mayor Eric Garcetti said, who called in 500 national guard soldiers to assist his city.

Minnesota's Walz ordered a full mobilization of national guard soldiers on Saturday, the first time in the state's history.

"It will be a dangerous situation on the streets tonight," he added.

The governors of Utah and Texas also activated the national guard to help control the escalating situation.

"We were confronted with tens of thousands of rioters," said John Harrington, head of the Minnesota's Public Safety Department on Saturday before the evening. "Literally there are 5,000 of them surrounding a building, trashing the building."   Minnesota authorities also consulted with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to seek further "national-level" resources.

Joe Biden, the former vice president and presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party to run against Trump in November elections, condemned the violence in an opinion piece published by Medium in the early hours of Sunday.

"The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance," Biden wrote.

The volatile protests came nearly immediately after video surfaced on Tuesday of a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for minutes as he pleads "I can't breathe."  The 46-year-old eventually lost consciousness and his limp body was loaded onto an ambulance stretcher. Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after the incident.

Police say they suspected Floyd of attempting to pass a forged 20-dollar bill at a local store.

The officer who kneeled on Floyd, Derek Chauvin, was charged with murder on Friday. However, his relatively quick indictment did not subdue anger, which African-American activists say has been brewing due to generations of police brutality.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Floyd's family said that they want an independent autopsy after the county coroner raised doubts about suffocation as the cause of death.

Last updated: May 31 2020 09:39 AM

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