Protests, anger over police brutality sparked by George Floyd’s death sweep U.S.
Protests formed across the U.S. again Sunday, even as glass and graffiti from the previous night’s unrest were still being cleaned up, with some violence and crime flaring in pockets of largely peaceful demonstrations fuelled by the mistreatment of black Americans at the hands of police.
From Boston to San Francisco, protesters took to the streets once more, and some signs of trouble emerged in cities that have closed streets and imposed curfews after days of turmoil sparked by the death last week of George Floyd — a black man who pleaded that he couldn’t breathe after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.
People robbed stores in broad daylight in Philadelphia and Santa Monica, Calif., and a truck drove into a massive crowd of people that took over a portion of a highway in Minneapolis.
No one appeared to have been hit.
Protesters crawled on the truck, and police came in force to clear the highway.
The protests quickly became national, happening in dozens of cities large and small. Demonstrations also spread around the world, with people gathering to show solidarity in Montreal, Jerusalem, London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro and the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.
The police officer who pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with murder, but protesters are demanding charges against all four officers at the scene. All four were fired.
In neighbouring St. Paul, thousands gathered peacefully in front of the state capitol, pledging to keep up the protests.
“We’re Minnesota nice, but we’re not Minnesota dumb, and we’re not done,” St. Paul Black Lives Matter organizer Darnella Wade said. “They sent us the military and we only asked them for arrests.”
WATCH | Crowds sing Amazing Grace in memory of George Floyd:
Minnesota’s governor brought in thousands of National Guard soldiers to help quell violence that had damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in Minneapolis over days of protests. The immense deployment appeared to have worked Saturday night, when there was comparatively little destruction.
On Sunday, in a display of force, long lines of state patrolmen and National Guard soldiers were lined up in front of the Capitol, facing the demonstrators, with perhaps a dozen military-style armoured vehicles behind them.
Pleas for end to violence
Across America, demonstrators called again for an end to police violence.
“They keep killing our people,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who marched with her mother and several hundred others through downtown Boston. “I’m so sick and tired of it.”
WATCH | CBC’s Susan Ormiston on Minneapolis police clearing out peaceful protesters:
Others joined police in pleading for a stop to violence erupting out of demonstrations, saying it weakened calls for justice and reform.
“It only hurts the cause,” said Danielle Outlaw, head of the police force in Philadelphia, where more than 200 people were arrested as fires and looting engulfed the heart of the city.
Worry over COVID-19 spread
Disgust over generations of racism in a country founded by slaveholders combined with a string of recent racially charged killings to stoke the anger.
Adding to that was angst from months of lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt communities of colour, not only in terms of infections but in job losses and economic stress.
The droves of people congregating for demonstrations threatened to trigger new outbreaks, a risk overshadowed by the boiling tensions.
WATCH | Scenes from protests in D.C., Chicago and Oakland, Calif.
“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.”
The scale of the protests, sweeping from coast to coast and unfolding on a single night, rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras.
Curfews have been imposed in major cities around the U.S., including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. About 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
At the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd was killed, people gathered with brooms and flowers, saying it was important to protect what they called a “sacred space.” The intersection was blocked with the traffic cones while a ring of flowers was laid out.
Among those descending on Minneapolis was Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, whose killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, set off unrest in 2014.
“I understand what this family is feeling. I understand what this community is feeling,” he said.
In tweets Sunday, President Donald Trump blamed the media for fuelling “hatred and anarchy.” Attorney General William Barr pointed a finger at “far left extremist” groups. Police chiefs and politicians accused outsiders of coming in and causing the problems.
Crews near the White House worked to replace windows that had been shattered with large pieces of wood. Buildings for blocks were marked with graffiti, including curses about Trump. Shattered glass still covered the sidewalks. The damaged buildings included the Department of Veterans Affairs, directly across the street from the White House.
In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence, adding to deaths reported in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.
Buildings around the U.S. were defaced with spray-painted messages, from the facade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to the historic Hay-Adams hotel near the White House. Some of Floyd’s gasped last words — “I can’t breathe” — were repeated, alongside anti-police messages.
2 Atlanta officers fired
Two Atlanta police officers have been fired and three placed on desk duty pending review over what the city’s mayor called excessive use of force on two college students during a protest incident Saturday night.
“Use of excessive force is never acceptable,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference on Sunday.
Bottoms made the decision with Chief Erika Shields of the Atlanta police department, after reviewing body-camera footage. Shields called it “really shocking to watch.”
Officials said the incident came to light via video that circulated online.
It reportedly shows a group of police officers in riot gear and gas masks surround a car being driven by a young man with a young woman in the passenger seat.
In the video, the officers pull the woman out and appear to use a stun gun on the man, then use zip-tie handcuffs on the woman on the ground.The couple did not appear to be fighting police on the video.
Bottoms said they were both released and that charges had been dropped against the young woman. The mayor said she was ordering charges against the young man to be dropped as well.
Local reporters, who captured footage of the incident, said the police had earlier broken the glass on the car. A reporter said police also flattened the tires.
www.cbc.ca 2020-05-31 10:57:31