Outrage. Sadness. 'The injustice has been going on for so long. It’s been swelling for years'
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Thousands of protesters ignored a curfew and vows of a forceful police response to take to the Minneapolis streets for a fourth straight night, as the anger stoked by the police killing of George Floyd 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.
Criminal charges filed Friday morning against the white officer who held his knee for nearly nine minutes on the neck of Floyd, a black man, did nothing to stem the anger. Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Minneapolis police said shots had been fired at law enforcement officers during the protests but no one was injured.
Joe Biden lamented the “open wound” of the nation's systemic racism on Friday as he responded to the police killing of a black man in Minnesota. He drew an implicit contrast with President Donald Trump, who has suggested authorities could respond with violence to the protests that followed George Floyd’s death.
“The original sin of this country still stains our nation today,” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in remarks broadcast from his home in Wilmington, Delaware. "It’s time for us to take a hard look at uncomfortable truths.”
Biden announced his bid for the presidency last year arguing he’s uniquely positioned to unite a deeply divided country. He pointed to Trump’s response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as unworthy of America’s people and values.
As the country endures another spasm of racial unrest, the central premise of Biden’s campaign is being tested. Biden is responding by positioning himself as an empathetic counter to Trump, who often struggles to convey emotion or connect on a personal level during moments of crisis.
Trump tweeted Saturday morning that the Secret Service controlled the "big crowd" and warned of "vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action."
Trump also set the stage for more confrontation calling for a counter protest, a MAGA night at the White House.
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.
The new round of unrest came despite Gov. Tim Walz vowing early in the day to show a more forceful response by the state than the one Thursday run by Minneapolis city leaders. But by early Saturday morning, Walz was acknowledging he didn't have enough manpower, even with some 500 Guard soldiers.
“We do not have the numbers,” Walz said. “We cannot arrest people when we are trying to hold ground.”
Walz said he was moving quickly to mobilize more than 1,000 more Guard members, for a total of 1,700, and was considering the potential offer of federal military police. But he warned that even that might not be enough, saying he expected another difficult night Saturday.
Not all the protests were violent. Downtown, thousands of demonstrators encircled a barricaded police station after the 8 p.m. Friday curfew. “Prosecute the police!” some chanted, and “Say his name: George Floyd!” Some protesters sprayed graffiti on buildings.
Anger filled the streets of Minneapolis.
Ben Hubert, a 26-year-old local resident, said he wasn’t surprised people were breaking curfew and setting fires.
“I’m outraged,” he said of the Floyd case. “But I’m also sad. The injustice has been going on for so long. It’s been swelling for years.”
Chauvin was also accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.
Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.
An attorney for Floyd’s family welcomed the arrest but said he expected a more serious murder charge and wants the other officers arrested, too.
Prosecutor Mike Freeman said more charges were possible, but authorities “felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator.”
Protests nationwide have been fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death and years of police violence against African Americans. Protesters smashed windows at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, set a police car on fire and struck officers with bottles. Large demonstrations in New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., and dozens of other cities ranged from people peacefully blocking roads to repeated clashes with police.
Georgia's governor declared a state of emergency early Saturday to activate the state National Guard as violence flared in Atlanta and cities nationwide following the death in Minnesota of George Floyd after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck while taking him into custody.
Another 500 Guard soldiers were mobilized in and around Minneapolis, where Floyd died and an officer faced charges Friday in his death. But after another night of watching fires burn and businesses ransacked, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said early Saturday that he was moving to activate more than 1,000 more and was considering federal help.
The Guard was also on standby in the District of Columbia, where a crowd grew outside the White House and chanted curses at President Donald Trump. Some protesters tried to push through barriers set up by the U.S. Secret Service along Pennsylvania Avenue, and threw bottles and other objects at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with pepper spray.
A person was killed in downtown Detroit just before midnight after someone in an SUV fired shots into a crowd of protesters near the Greektown entertainment district, police said. In Portland, Oregon, protesters broke into police headquarters and authorities said they lit a fire inside. In Virginia's capital, a police cruiser was set on fire outside Richmond police headquarters, and a city transit spokeswoman said a bus set ablaze was "a total loss," news outlets reported.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted that up to 500 members of the Guard would deploy immediately "to protect people & property in Atlanta." He said he acted at the request of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who earlier appealed in vain for calm.
In scenes both peaceful and violent across the nation, thousands of protesters chanted "No justice, no peace" and "Say his name. George Floyd." They hoisted signs reading: "He said I can't breathe. Justice for George."
Some demonstrators smashed police cars and spray-painted the iconic logo sign at CNN headquarters in downtown Atlanta. At least three officers were hurt and there were multiple arrests, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said, as protesters shot at officers with BB guns and threw bricks, bottles and knives.
Atlanta officials said crews were unable to reach a fire at Del Frisco's restaurant in the Buckhead neighborhood several miles north because of protesters there.
"This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.," Bottoms said. "You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country."
Bottoms was flanked by King's daughter, Bernice King, and rappers T.I. and Killer Mike.
"We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta what have we got?" said Killer Mike, crying as he spoke.
Video posted to social media showed New York City officers using batons and shoving protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared streets. One video showed on officer slam a woman to the ground as he walked past her in the street.
Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, scrawled graffiti across its charred body and set it aflame again as officers retreated. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter another police vehicle.
"There will be a full review of what happened tonight," Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, referring to the Brooklyn protest. "We don't ever want to see another night like this."
The police department said numerous officers were injured, including one whose tooth was knocked out.
The names of black people killed by police, including Floyd and Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014, were on signs and in chants.
"Our country has a sickness. We have to be out here," said Brianna Petrisko, among those at lower Manhattan's Foley Square, where most were wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. "This is the only way we're going to be heard."
Protesters in Houston, where Floyd grew up, included 19-year-old Jimmy Ohaz from the nearby city of Richmond, Texas: "My question is how many more, how many more? I just want to live in a future where we all live in harmony and we're not oppressed."
Demonstrators on the West Coast blocked highways in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.
About 1,000 protesters in Oakland smashed windows, sprayed buildings with "Kill Cops" graffiti and were met with chemical spray from police, who said several officers were injured by projectiles.
One Los Angeles officer received medical treatment, police said. An LAPD vehicle had its windows smashed, and at least one city bus was vandalized. Police declared an unlawful assembly throughout downtown, where aerial footage from KTLA-TV showed scored of people corralled by police.
An LAPD spokesman told The Associated Press they were still tallying arrests.
"I believe in our city. L.A. is strong enough to stand for justice and walk in love," Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted, cautioning "violence and vandalism hurts all."
San Jose, California, police said that Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies shot at a fleeing SUV that was shown on video striking protesters, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
Protesters repeatedly clashed with police in San Jose, said Mayor Sam Liccardo, and police responded with flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets. One officer was hospitalized with a non-life-threatening injury, officials said.
Liccardo said his city's officers shared the community's outrage over Floyd's death.
"It was a horrible injustice," he told the AP.
Portland, Oregon, police said at least one shooting was tied to the protest, although details weren't immediately released. Two people were arrested during overnight riots in which protesters set fires throughout downtown and smashed storefront windows, police said, but arrest details were immediately available.
Police, who declared the protest a riot, said they deployed gas after people threw projectiles at them.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted a plea to protesters to remain peaceful and said that, while he had left Portland to attend to his dying mother, he was heading back.
"Portland, this is not us," he wrote. "When you destroy our city, you are destroying our community. When you act in violence against each other, you are hurting all of us. How does this honor the legacy of George Floyd?"