With cities wounded by days of violent unrest, America headed into a new week with neighbourhoods in shambles, urban streets on lockdown and shaken confidence about when leaders would find the answers to control the mayhem amid unrelenting raw emotion over police killings of black people.
Despite curfews in big cities across the U.S. and the deployment of thousands of National Guard soldiers over the past week, demonstrations descended into violence again on Sunday.
All of it hit a nation already bludgeoned by a death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surging past 100,000 and unemployment that soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police in Philadelphia, set a fire near the White House and were hit with tear gas and pepper spray in Austin, Texas, and other cities.
Boston Police indicated in a tweet that late-night violence had seen seven police officers treated for injuries in hospital, 21 police cruisers damaged and about 40 people arrested.
In some cities, thieves smashed their way into stores and ran off with as much as they could carry, leaving shop owners, many of them just ramping up their businesses again after coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, to clean up their shattered storefronts.
New York City was among those cities, with the police commissioner telling NBC’s Today show on Monday that there had been “hundreds and hundreds of arrests in a very short time,” in the Soho neighbourhood of Manhattan.
In other cities, police tried to calm tensions by kneeling in solidarity with demonstrators, while still maintaining a strong presence for security.
The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as an officer pressed a knee into his neck. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis came after tensions had already flared after two white men were arrested in May for the February shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the Louisville police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her Kentucky home in March, which also attracted national attention.
WATCH: Tenor of protests changes later at night:
Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville killed a man early Monday when they returned fire after someone in a large group fired at them first, the city’s police chief confirmed.
Chief Steve Conrad confirmed the shooting happened around 12:15 a.m. outside a food market. Someone fired a shot at them and both soldiers and officers returned fire, the chief said. It was unclear if the person killed is the one who fired at law enforcement. Several “persons of interest” were being interviewed, Conrad said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he authorized state police to independently investigate Monday morning’s shooting, which he said happened as police and guardsmen were fired on while dispersing a crowd.
Thousands arrested across the country
The upheaval has unfolded amid the gloom and economic ruin caused by the coronavirus, which has killed over 100,000 Americans and sent unemployment soaring to levels not seen since the Depression. The outbreak has hit minorities especially hard, not just in infections and deaths, but in job losses and economic stress.
The scale of the coast-to-coast protests has rivalled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. At least 4,400 people have been arrested for such offences as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count compiled by The Associated Press.
“They keep killing our people. I’m so sick and tired of it,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who was at a Boston protest with her mother on Sunday, leading chants of, “George Floyd, say his name.”
Tensions rose Sunday outside the White House, the scene of three days of demonstrations, where police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park. The crowd ran, piling up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a nearby street. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the blaze.
A building in the park with bathrooms and a maintenance office went up in flames. As demonstrations persisted past curfew, Washington police said they were responding to multiple fires set around the capital.
The district’s entire National Guard — roughly 1,700 soldiers — was called in to help control the protests, according to two Defence Department officials who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
WATCH: Keith Mayes, University of Minnesota, talks about what it could take to stop the violent protests:
As the protests grew, U.S. President Donald Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton, who called for “overwhelming force” against violent demonstrators.
Former vice-president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, visited the site of protests in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., and talked to some of the demonstrators. He also wrote a post on Medium expressing empathy for those despairing about Floyd’s killing.
In Salt Lake City, an activist leader condemned the destruction of property but said broken buildings shouldn’t be mourned on the same level as black men like Floyd.
“Maybe this country will get the memo that we are sick of police murdering unarmed black men,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah. “Maybe the next time a white police officer decides to pull the trigger, he will picture cities burning.”
Scary incident with truck in Minnesota
Yet thousands still marched peacefully in Phoenix, Albuquerque and other cities, with some calling for an end to the fires, vandalism and theft, saying it weakened calls for justice and reform.
In downtown Atlanta, authorities fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said two officers had been fired and three placed on desk duty after video showed police surrounding a car Saturday and using stun guns on the man and woman inside.
WATCH l Moments of panic as truck drives into crowd in Minneapolis:
In downtown Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters in a street, knocking two people to the ground. Nearby in Santa Monica, not far from a peaceful demonstration, groups broke into stores, walking out with boxes of shoes and folding chairs, among other items. A fire broke out at a restaurant across the street.
In Minneapolis, the officer who pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding the other three officers at the scene be prosecuted. All four were fired.
“We’re not done,” said Darnella Wade, an organizer for Black Lives Matter in neighbouring St. Paul, where thousands gathered peacefully in front of the state capitol. “They sent us the military, and we only asked them for arrests.”
WATCH | Minneapolis business owner devastated by damage:
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz brought in thousands of National Guard soldiers on Saturday to help quell violence that had damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in Minneapolis over days of protests.
That appeared to help minimize unrest, but thousands marching on a closed freeway were shaken when a tractor-trailer rolled into their midst. No serious injuries were reported. The driver was arrested on suspicion of assault.
Published at Mon, 01 Jun 2020 11:06:40 +0000