Protests raged across the United States Friday as angry and grieving demonstrators clashed with police, took over busy thoroughfares, stoned and defaced public and private buildings demanding justice for George Floyd, an African-American man killed in police custody in Minneapolis earlier in the week.
The White House in Washington DC was put under lockdown briefly by the Secret Service as demonstrators closed in on its gates, before they moved on down the road to Trump International, a hotel owned by the Trump Organization, the president’s company that is now run by his two elder sons.
President Donald Trump on Saturday commended the Secret Service for its handling of the protestors, who he said in tweets were “professionally managed” and “organized group”. He warned them that they would have been “greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” if they had breached the security cordon and managed to enter the premises.
Trump had earlier called the protestors “thugs” and warned them, deploying a controversial phrase used by a Miami mayor against civil rights activists in the 1960s, and later by a segregationist — — “When the looting starts, shooting starts”. The president tried to walk it back in a subsequent set of tweets.
Demonstrators across the country chanted the same set of slogans as they marched peacefully or broke out into violence: “I can’t breath” — Floyd’s repeated pleas to the police officer who had him pinned to the ground with his knee to his neck for exactly 8 minutes and 45 seconds — “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace”.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer, was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder. Protestors are demanding action against the remaining three police officers present at the time.
In Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed Monday, protestors clashed with police and defied curfew to stay out in the streets. Businesses were shut and shots were fired at police, who have continued to struggle to control the situation, which was described as “absolute chaos” by the Minnesota governor, Tim Waltz, a Democrat.
“Quite candidly, right now, we do not have the numbers,” Mr. he said at a news briefing. “We cannot arrest people when we’re trying to hold ground because of the sheer size, the dynamics and the wanton violence that’s coming out there.”
In a rare move, the Pentagon is reported to be prepared to deploy several units of military police to Minneapolis if needed. Soldiers from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum, military facilities in North Carolina and New York, have been put on four-hour deployment notice, the Associated Press reported Saturday.
In Atlanta, protestors targeted CNN world headquarters and threw projectiles at it and defaced the company sign in front. While a reporter was on air from inside the building a firecracker was thrown into the lobby where police officers stood in a cordon. A state of emergency has been declared in the city and National Guards have been instructed to stand by for deployment.
Clashes with police and vandalization of police vehicles took place in Los Angeles and Houston. In New York, dozens of people were taken into custody and many police officers were injured in the clashes. And in Portland, Oregon, demonstrators stormed a government building and set fire to cubicles inside.
Protests in some cities were about their own killed in police encounters. Demonstrators in Louisville, Kentucky, for instance, mourned the killing of Breanna Taylor, an Africa American woman, by the police in March. Similar protests have been planned for the weekend in Austin and Phoenix.
The Washington Post reported that police use-of-force is the sixth leading cause of death for young men of color in the United States. And, according to a database compiled by the news publication about 1,000 people are shot and killed by police every year.