The fury over the death of an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis has thrust the city and other American cities into a state of upheaval and anger.
The protests centre around the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old’s death was captured by a witness’s cellphone video, which shows a police officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as he said: “Please, I can’t breathe.”
Floyd was accused of trying to pass counterfeit money at a corner store.
The four officers involved in his arrest were dismissed Tuesday, but that did not stifle the countrywide outrage and unrest over his death. Officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck during the arrest, was taken into custody on Friday afternoon. He was subsequently charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Protests swell across United States
Since the outrage ballooned in Minneapolis on Tuesday, solidarity protests have sprung up across the United States.
In Washington, D.C., protesters gathered in front of the White House, causing it to be put under lockdown on Friday.
Phoenix saw protests turn violent as demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at police, broke windows at police headquarters and damaged vehicles Thursday evening.In Denver, protests erupted on Thursday with protesters blocking freeway traffic and coming face to face with police officers.
Hundreds of demonstrators stood in Denver’s downtown streets, where some spray-painted graffiti and broke car windows.
In other areas of the state, police in riot gear fired gas canisters and used rubber bullets to drive the crowds away. At one point, the protest spilt onto Interstate 25 — a key highway — blocking all lanes of traffic until police intervened.
A spokesperson for the Colorado State Patrol told The Associated Press that no injuries were reported from the shots and that no arrests had been made.
A video posted to social media showed tensions between protesters and other people. The video appears to show a man on the hood of a vehicle attempting to make its way through the crowd. The driver appears to speed up and apparently tries to run the man down after he falls off the hood. Protesters then chase after the vehicle as it speeds away. There was no word as of Friday whether the man was injured.
In Los Angeles, similar protests broke out earlier in the week.
Demonstrators gathered outside L.A. police headquarters and blocked freeway traffic. At one point, protesters allegedly attacked two Highway Patrol cruisers.
Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Florida, New Mexico and New York also saw protests of their own.
Minneapolis epicentre of protests
The epicentre of the protests so far has been the 3rd Precinct station in Minneapolis.
On Thursday, for a third night, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the building. Police officers positioned on the roof of the building used tear gas and rubber bullets to try and keep the crowds away, but eventually, the protesters attacked the building, setting it on fire.
At the mayor’s request, the police officers retreated from the station, as he said it was too dangerous for them to stay there.
Photos and videos from the precinct and surrounding area show apocalyptic scenes of burned-out liquor stores, walls plastered with graffiti and streets littered with debris.
Several other buildings and were set ablaze and looted, including a nearby discount store that had been ransacked the night before.
The owner of a local restaurant that caught fire and was damaged in Thursday night’s outrage offered support for the protesters on Facebook.
“Your efforts won’t go unrecognized,” the Gandhi Mahal Restaurant wrote on Facebook. “Don’t worry about us, we will rebuild and we will recover.”
Some businesses boarded up their windows and doors before the crowds swelled late Thursday night.
The city’s light-rail system and bus service have been shut down almost entirely out of safety concerns.
The protesters who got inside the police station, their faces covered, ransacked rooms through a haze of smoke, setting off sprinklers and fire alarms.
Photos show overturned tables and chairs, broken glass and scattered blazes.
Politicians call for ‘swift’ justice
On Friday, Minnesota’s governor called for an end to the violent protests. While he promised a reckoning with the racial inequalities fuelling the outrage, he said “order to society” must be restored before the issue can be addressed.
“We cannot have the looting and recklessness that went on,” said Governor Tim Walz.
In the emotional news conference, Walz acknowledged that the unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul is the result of “generations of pain, of anguish” over racism in policing and racism in general.
He said he expects “swift” and “timely” justice for the officers involved in Floyd’s arrest. “That it will be fair,” he added.
CNN reporter arrested at protest
Walz also went on to apologize for the arrest of a CNN reporter during Thursday night’s riots.
CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his two colleagues were taken into custody by the Minnesota State Patrol and later released. Jimenez was handcuffed and led away by officers while reporting live on air.
Walz said there was “absolutely no reason for something like this should happen,” adding that he takes “full responsibility” for the incident.
“In a situation like this, even if you’re clearing an area, we have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell the story. The issue here is trust,” Walz said.
Protesters gathered in front of the CNN Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday but it is unclear whether that gathering spot was related to the arrests. Witness videos show the centre’s windows vandalized, some smashed and at least one cop car destroyed.
Trump lashes out
U.S. President Trump threatened to take action against the city of Minneapolis on Friday as the smoke from Thursday’s nights riot began to clear.
In a tweet, Trump called the protesters “thugs” who are “dishonouring the memory of George Floyd.”
He said that he spoke with Walz about the situation and offered military help, but suggested that if things did not get brought under control, further action could be taken.
“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted.
The tweet was later flagged by Twitter for violating its rules about “glorifying violence.” The social media giant did not remove the message but instead added a warning label that prevents it from being shared or liked.
In another tweet on Friday, Trump repeated that “looting leads to shooting.” Trump defended the earlier Twitter post, saying it was “spoken as a fact, not as a statement.”
Trump’s comments brought condemnation from other politicians.
Though he did not mention him by name, Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden accused the president of inciting violence with the tweet.
“We are a country with an open wound. None of us can turn away,” Biden said in a brief address.
He said that he spoke with the family of Floyd recently, adding that now was “no time for incendiary tweets. No time to incite violence.”
At a White House event on Friday, Trump said he had spoken with Floyd’s family. According to Reuters, he also said “we can’t allow” the protests in Minneapolis “to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos.”
Former President Barack Obama also released a statement about Floyd’s death and the protests it incited.
He said while many might want to “get back to normal” after the COVID-19 pandemic, mistreatment on account of race is “tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal'” for many in the United States.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal,'” he wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made mention of the riots during his daily address to Canadians about the COVID-19 crisis.
Trudeau said Canadians “of diverse backgrounds” are watching the situation unfold in the U.S. with “shock and horror.”
“Anti-black racism – racism – is real. It’s in the United States but it’s also in Canada and we know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” he told reporters. “We have work to do as well in Canada.”
Calls for independent investigation
Also Friday, attorneys for the families of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are calling for an independent investigation of the actions leading to Floyd’s death.
They also want national reforms in response to the three deaths.
Taylor, a Black woman, was shot dead by police who broke down her door in March. Arbery was killed in February when a father and son armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man after spotting him running in their neighbourhood in Georgia.
The cases have attracted national headlines and drawn racially charged protests against police, as well.
This is a developing story. More information to come.
— with files from the Associated Press and Reuters.