George Floyd: curfews fail to deter a new wave of protests across US

Cities across the US saw further unrest on Sunday as protests against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis raged on. Fires burned in the nation’s capital, including near the White House, on the sixth day of nationwide demonstrations.

Amid rising anger and frustration at the repeated failure of America’s policing system to address the staggering number of deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of officers, mayors of more than a dozen cities imposed curfews and governors of six states called in the national guard.

But the move did not deter protesters from gathering again in many cities as Sunday night drew in. Since Floyd’s death last week, more than 4,100 protesters have been arrested.

In Minneapolis, where the protests began last week after video emerged of a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, national guard troops were deployed as demonstrations continued. A fuel semi-truck drove into a demonstration of thousands of people on a bridge near the city’s downtown, though authorities say no one was injured after the “disturbing” incident.

In Washington DC, intense unrest broke out in Lafayette Park, right in front of the White House, when police advanced to enforce the curfew. The basement of the “Church of the Presidents”, located opposite the White House briefly caught fire, before firefighters rushed to put it out, and the Washington monument was surrounded by smoke from multiple fires. Officers fired teargas into the crowds, and US marshals personnel and DEA agents were deployed in addition to national guard and Secret Service to assist the police.

In the Los Angeles neighborhood of Santa Monica, police fired teargas and other projectiles at protesters blocking a main shopping road. On one shopping street numerous buildings and businesses were looted, including clothing and shoe stores.

In New York thousands of protesters returned to the streets, marching through Manhattan during the day and later congregating at Union Square, where numerous police cars had been torched on Saturday night. Fires were again set on the streets amid clashes between officers and protesters.


In Brooklyn, the demonstration was more tranquil. The crowd included many families. One woman, Fatima, a Brooklyn resident who came with her husband and toddler, said: “I’m tired of posting social media – I got a black husband, a black son. I’m tired of them killing us. This is the civil rights movement and it’s 2020.”

There was looting in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and other cities throughout the country.

Police have come under intense scrutiny and criticism for their actions on Saturday night, accused of heavy handed tactics, attacking and arresting protesters and members of the media.

In the Florida city of Fort Lauderdale officers on motorcycles doused crowds in teargas, according to local press reports.

In Atlanta, where teargas was again used by police on the streets, two officers were fired and three placed on desk duty over excessive use of force on Saturday night. Officials say the incident came to light via a video that shows a group of police officers surrounding a car being driven by a man with a woman in the passenger seat. The officers pull the woman out to zip-tie her and appear to use a stun gun on the man. Local reporters said the police had earlier broken glass on the car and also flattened its tires.

Demonstrators also protested outside US embassies in London, Berlin and Copenhagen as the movement spread abroad.

Back in Minneapolis, authorities were determined to force compliance with the curfew on Sunday night and prevent a repeat of the widespread looting and arson that damaged stores along a more than two-mile stretch of Lake Street, a thoroughfare of mostly locally owned businesses.

All the main highways were closed and many side streets closed off by makeshift barricades. A few people around defied orders to stay home at night. The main gathering place remained the street where George Floyd was arrested on Monday, now a memorial filled with flowers.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, whose district includes Minneapolis, said residents were feeling “terrorised”.

Cyclists ride past the burned out O’Reilly Auto Parts store in Minneapolis.
Cyclists ride past the burned out O’Reilly Auto Parts store in Minneapolis. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“When we see people setting our buildings and our businesses ablaze, we know those are not people who are interested in protecting black lives,” she told ABC’s This Week. But she said people were also fearful of the presence of police and national guard troops.

“What we are trying to do is try to figure out something between extreme aggression and ways to figure out how to not get our city burned down. And it’s a challenge,” she said.

“We are living in a country that has a two-tiered justice system and people are … sick and tired of being sick and tired. And we need to really step back and say to ourselves, where do we actually go from here? And that can’t just be getting justice for George Floyd. It needs to be bigger than that.”

Donald Trump, however, has done little to calm the situation. He labelled the protesters “anarchists” and claimed, without evidence, that political opponents were orchestrating the violence.

“The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists,” Trump said. “The violence and vandalism is being led by Antifa and other radical leftwing groups who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings.”

“LAW & ORDER,” Trump tweeted on Sunday night.

It also emerged, according to a report in the New York Times, that the Secret Service had been so unnerved by a protest outside the White House on Friday evening that they had taken Trump to a secure bunker once used to shelter former vice-president Dick Cheney on 9/11.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, urged people to “ignore” the president, who she accused of “fuelling the flame”.

A protester in Las Vegas stands in front of a police officer during a demonstration demanding justice for the death of George Floyd.
A protester in Las Vegas stands in front of a police officer during a demonstration demanding justice for the death of George Floyd. Photograph: Denise Truscello/Getty Images

“To take his bait time and time again is just a gift to him because he always wants to divert attention from what the cause of the response was rather than to describe it in his own terms, sadly,” she told ABC.

Meanwhile, Trump’s opponent in the coming November presidential election, Joe Biden, visited the site of protests in Wilmington, Delaware. He met with protesters and said that he would lead “this conversation”, but that also, “I will listen.”

George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said he had briefly spoken to Trump.

“It was so fast,” he told MSNBC. “He didn’t give me the opportunity to even speak. It was hard. I was trying to talk to him but he just kept like pushing me off, like, ‘I don’t want to hear what you’re talking about.’”


Chris McGreal in Minneapolis, Julian Borger in Washington, Sam Levin in Los Angeles and Maanvi Singh in San Francisco

The GuardianTramp

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