MINNEAPOLIS – Protests and unrest took over the streets of many United States cities again on Saturday, with Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the epicenter, where crowds of people demonstrated against police brutality despite a curfew in place.
Around 30 cities, from Los Angeles to Chicago, passing through Cleveland, Washington DC and New York, were the scenes of protests against the death of 46-year-old African American man George Floyd, who died at the hands of the police on May 25 in Minneapolis.
Crowds gathered in Minneapolis minutes before the 8:00 pm (0100 GMT) curfew ordered by authorities in the Fifth Precinct area, where on Friday a bank and a police station were burned down. Later, a reporter on the scene tweeted that state police in riot gear were advancing after peaceful protesters defied curfew, and that rubber bullets and tear gas had been fired.
Burned-out police cars, blocked roads, broken glass and the launching of projectiles were scenes repeated in various parts of the US, while police used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti imposed on Saturday an 8:00 pm curfew in the city after another day of violent protests against which police were deployed in full force to try and pacify the situation. The satellite towns of Pasadena and Santa Monica also imposed curfews and deployed police on the streets.
Garcetti followed the example of other US cities and called in 500 members of the National Guard to control the situation after clashes led to over 530 arrests and six police officers getting injured between Friday night and the early hours of Saturday.
On Saturday, a peaceful protest deteriorated into a number of shops, pharmacies and other businesses being looted in the city center, while a small police station was set on fire.
In New York City, several thousand protesters demonstrated, burning police vehicles in Brooklyn and cutting off traffic on various roads, with tense moments involving batons and pepper spray in simultaneous marches that traveled the five districts of the Big Apple, until they passed Trump Tower. Police also detained two sisters for throwing a Molotov cocktail at the police on Friday.
In Washington DC, new altercations between the Secret Service, police and protesters took place for the second consecutive night in the vicinity of the White House. More than 1,000 protesters gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue and some threw bricks, stones and bottles until they were dispersed by the Secret Service. There was also a clash with the Secret Service after a fence was knocked down.
Hours later, as evening fell, hundreds of protesters gathered near Lafayette Square, the park in front of the White House, the access to which had been closed. There, security measures were reinforced with metal barriers and a greater deployment of law enforcement personnel and vehicles, which were damaged by protesters. At around 10:00 pm, police fired tear gas.
President Donald Trump warned that if protesters had breached the White House fence, they would “have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
On the west coast, the Seattle Police Department reported in a statement that “following several hours of peaceful demonstration, the crowd became violent and aggressive and began to throw bottles at officers. Members of the crowd also threw fireworks towards people attending the rally.” As a result of these altercations, several protesters and officers were injured, police said.
Local television was broadcasting images of burning vehicles, while Governor Jay Inslee said he had activated 200 members of the National Guard, and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted that she would “soon be signing an emergency order and the @CityofSeattle will be imposing a 5 pm curfew.”
In Philadelphia, rally participants vandalized a police vehicle, and painted and attempted to tear down the statue of former mayor Frank Rizzo in the city center. Rizzo, who died in 1991, was a police commissioner known for his firm hand.
The Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety in Pennsylvania said on Twitter that several police officers had been injured during riots, while three journalists had been injured or attacked by protesters.
In Miami, Florida, protesters staged riots that were dispersed by law enforcement, after a peaceful rally earlier in the day. The protesters set fire to several police cars and smashed street furniture until at 10:00 pm the riot teams dispersed the crowds using tear gas and rubber bullets.
Several cities have decreed a curfew, including Atlanta, where protests were especially violent on Friday. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered a curfew on Saturday from 9:00 pm local time until dawn.
Others with a curfew in place so far include Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Seattle, Miami, Cleveland, Columbus, Portland, Milwaukee and Salt Lake City.
So far, state governors have activated their National Guards in Colorado, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden released a late-night statement on Twitter saying: “We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. Please stay safe. Please take care of each other.”