‘This is the only way we’re going to be heard…’
(Liberty Headlines) Violent riots over the death of George Floyd and other police killings of black men grew Saturday from New York to Tulsa to Los Angeles, with police cars set ablaze and reports of injuries mounting on all sides as the country lurched toward another night of unrest after months of coronavirus lockdowns.
The riots, which began in Minneapolis following Floyd’s death Monday after a police officer pressed a knee on his neck for more than eight minutes, have left parts of the city a grid of broken windows, burned-out buildings and ransacked stores.
The day’s protests started calmly, but then descended into riots later in the day.
Police in St. Louis were investigating the death of a protester who climbed between two trailers of a Fed Ex truck and was killed when it drove away.
And a person was killed in the area of protests in downtown Detroit just before midnight after someone fired shots into an SUV, officers said. Police had initially said someone fired into the crowd from an SUV.
— In Washington, the D.C. National Guard was called in as hundreds converged on the mall and pockets of violence erupted during a second straight night of protests.
Outside the White House, crowds chanted, taunted Secret Service agents and at times pushed against security barriers, and police used pepper spray.
President Donald Trump, who spent much of Saturday in Florida for the SpaceX rocket launch, landed on the lawn in the presidential helicopter at dusk.
— In Philadelphia, at least 13 officers were injured when protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. Other fires were set throughout downtown.
— In the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma rioters blocked intersections and chanted the name of Terence Crutcher, a black man killed by a police officer in 2016.
— In Seattle, police fired tear gas and stun grenades to try to disperse black-clad crowds that smashed downtown shopfronts, stole merchandise and tossed mannequins onto the street.
— In Los Angeles, rioters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” some within inches of the face shields of officers. Police used batons to move the crowd back and fired rubber bullets.One man used a skateboard to try to break a police SUV’s windshield. A spray-painted police car burned in the street.
— And in New York City, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets. A video showed two NYPD cruisers lurching into a crowd of demonstrators who were pushing a barricade against one of them and pelting it with objects, knocking several people to the ground. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.
“Our country has a sickness. We have to be out here,” said Brianna Petrisko, among those at lower Manhattan’s Foley Square. “This is the only way we’re going to be heard.”
Back in Minneapolis, the city where the protests began, 29-year-old Sam Allkija said the damage seen in recent days reflects longstanding frustration and rage in the black community.
“I don’t condone them,” he said. “But you have to look deeper into why these riots are happening.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who said local forces had been overmatched Friday, fully mobilized the state’s National Guard and promised a massive show of force.
The Guard announced Saturday it had more than 4,000 members responding to Minneapolis and would quickly have nearly 11,000.
“The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” Walz said. “It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”
Soon after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew went into force, lines of police cars and officers in riot gear moved in to confront rioters, firing tear gas to push away throngs of people milling around the city’s 5th police precinct station.
The tougher tactics came after city and state leaders were criticized for not forcefully enough confronting days of violent and damaging protests that included rioters burning down a police station shortly after officers abandoned it.
Trump praised the tougher tactics that law enforcement used. He commended the Guard deployment in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and also said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”
Overnight curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities nationwide, ranging from 6 p.m. in parts of South Carolina to 10 p.m. around Ohio.
People were also told to be off the streets of Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Minneapolis — where thousands had ignored the same order Friday night.
More than 1,300 people have been arrested in 16 cities since Thursday, with more than 500 of those happening in Los Angeles on Friday.
“Quite frankly I’m ready to just lock people up,” Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said at a news conference. Demonstrations there turned violent Friday, and police were arresting protesters Saturday on blocked-off downtown streets. “Yes, you caught us off balance once. It’s not going to happen twice.”
This week’s unrest recalled the riots in Los Angeles nearly 30 years ago after the acquittal of the white police officers who beat Rodney King, a black motorist who had led them on a high-speed chase.
The officer who killed Floyd as he begged for air was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But many protesters are demanding the arrests of the three other officers involved.
Minnesota has steadily increased to 1,700 the number of National Guardsmen it says it needs to contain the unrest, and the governor is considering a potential offer of military police put on alert by the Pentagon.
Governors in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas also activated the National Guard after protests there turned violent overnight, while nighttime curfews were put in place in Portland, Oregon, Cincinnati and elsewhere.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.