Anguish and anger over the death of George Floyd erupted across the US hours after the former Minneapolis officer seen in video with his knee on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with murder.
Demonstrators funneled their anguish in cities like Atlanta, New York and Washington into chants, signs and outbreaks of violence, smashing windows and setting vehicles ablaze.
A large group of protestors gathered outside the gates of the White House in Washington, chanting George Floyd’s name and demanding justice for his death at the hands of police. It lead to the White House going into lockdown.
There were also chants of “I can’t breathe”, the words Mr Floyd said as a police officer kneeled on his neck before he died.
In Minneapolis a gas station is on fire, with the city in curfew and emergency services fearful of reaching areas to put out the flames.
• In one of the most chaotic protests Atlanta has seen in years, demonstrators smashed windows of police cars outside CNN Center, which houses Precinct 5 of the Atlanta Police Department. At least one squad car was set on fire. Police in riot gear helped other force protesters back to Centennial Olympic Park.
• Minneapolis and St. Paul are under a curfew instituted after days of protests marked by looting and arson. Few people paid attention.
• In Washington, DC, a protest outside the White House briefly caused the building to be placed on lockdown. It has since been lifted and the Secret Service has reopened entrances and exits to the White House campus for both staff and media.
• In New York, protesters and police clashed in various incidents Friday night outside the Barclays Center with protesters throwing water bottles, what appeared to be a bottle of paint and more at police officers. At least 12 people were arrested, police said.
• Detroit Police have arrested nine people, one of whom tried to run over an officer with a car, Chief James Craig said.
• Protests also took place in at least 25 other cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Derek Chauvin charged with murder
A Minnesota prosecutor charged Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the restraint death of Floyd on Friday afternoon (Saturday morning AEST).
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he may yet bring more charges against the ex-officer.
The arrest comes the morning after protesters torched a police station that officers abandoned during a third night of violence.
Livestream video showed protesters entering the building and burn it to the ground.
The message from the President has been taken as a call to arms for a nation on the edge.
“Trump said when the looting starts, the shooting starts, and everyone is taking that as a threat,” a protester told 9News US correspondent Time Arvier.
“We are not out here to loot, we are not out here to do none of the chaos and stuff, we are just out here to protest and stand up for a life that was lost, that was taken unjustly.”
The violence isn’t expected to subside any time soon with protesters predicting the riots will continue until all four officers are convicted.
“People are still going to act out. People are still mad. People have to release their anger, you know. It is the people who are supposed to protect us that did this,” another protestor said.
Floyd’s death ignites protests around the US
Although Minneapolis remains the epicentre of the protests, a number of other cities have all erupted in fury.
In the latest events sparked by Floyd’s death, hundreds of protestors shut down a major highway in San Jose in California.
Helicopter video showed traffic at a standstill on the southbound lanes of 101 in San Jose highway while some protestors were seen attacking cars.
In Ohio, officers have used pepper spray on protestors after a statehouse came under attack.
Seven people have been shot in Kentucky as the violence escalated overnight.
Concerning scenes from New York were also captures overnight with at least 72 people arrested.
Other locations impacts include Pheonix, Denver, Louisville, Memphis and Columbus.
Family of George Floyd speak out
Floyd’s uncle Selwyn Jones denounced the violent protests following his nephew’s death, calling them “absolutely outlandish”.
“I think that is absolutely outlandish for them to destroy their own city, their own home, to make a point,” Jones told the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota.
“I don’t think the point that they’re trying to make is the point that we’re trying to make.”
Jones, who plans to attend peaceful demonstrations on Saturday, said people who have reacted with violent protest and looting are “taking advantage of a bad situation to express anger”.
The fires in US cities are still burning
This morning, US President Donald Trump said the death of George Floyd “should never have happened”.
“We are determined that justice be served,” he said.
But he also warned against further unrest.
“We can’t allow a situation like what happened in Minneapolis to descend into lawless anarchy and chaos,” Mr Trump said.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the state would take over the response and that it’s time to show respect and dignity to those who are suffering.
“Minneapolis and St Paul are on fire. The fire is still smoldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,” Walz said.
“Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.”
Political leaders raise their voice
Earlier, Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he had spoken with the family of George Floyd and is calling for justice.
In a brief appearance online the former Vice President blamed systemic racism, which he called “an open wound” on American society, for Floyd’s death. He says it’s time for deep and lasting police reform.
Biden also took an indirect swipe at President Donald Trump without naming him, saying it was, “No time for incendiary tweets. No time to incite violence.”
A night of flames and violence
Dozens of fires were also set in nearby St Paul, where nearly 200 businesses were damaged or looted.
Protests spread across the US, fuelled by outrage over Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police.
Demonstrators clashed with officers in New York and blocked traffic in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver.
Trump threatened to bring Minneapolis “under control”, calling the protesters “thugs” and tweeting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
The tweet drew another warning from Twitter, which said the comment violated the platform’s rules, but the company did not remove it.
Trump also blasted the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis.
A visibly tired and frustrated Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made his first public appearance of the night early Friday at City Hall and took responsibility for evacuating the precinct, saying it had become too dangerous for officers.
As Frey continued, a reporter cut across loudly with a question: “What’s the plan here?”
“With regard to?” Frey responded. Then he added: “There is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city. I understand that … What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights here in terms of looting is unacceptable.”
He defended the city’s lack of engagement with looters — only a handful of arrests across the first two nights of violence — and said, “We are doing absolutely everything that we can to keep the peace.”
He said National Guard members were stationed in locations to help stem looting, including at banks, grocery stores and pharmacies.
CNN reporter and crew arrested
The Minnesota State Patrol said the journalists were among four people arrested as troopers were “clearing the streets and restoring order,” and they were released after being confirmed to be media members. CNN said on Twitter that the arrests were “a clear violation of their First Amendment rights.”
Firefighters worked Friday to contain a number of blazes as National Guard troops blocked access to streets where businesses had been damaged. They marched side by side and block by block as they expanded a perimeter around a heavily damaged area.
Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd’s death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video. In the footage, Floyd can be seen pleading as officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving.
Governor Tim Walz activated the National Guard at the Minneapolis mayor’s request. The Guard tweeted minutes after the precinct burned that it had activated more than 500 soldiers across the metro area. A couple dozen Guard members, armed with assault-style rifles, blocked a street Friday morning near a Target store that has sustained heavy damage by looters.
The Guard said a “key objective” was to make sure firefighters could respond to calls, and said in a follow-up tweet that soldiers would assist the Minneapolis Fire Department. But no move was made to put out the 3rd Precinct fire. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said fire crews could not safely respond to blazes at the precinct station and some surrounding buildings.
Earlier Thursday, dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities boarded up their windows and doors in an effort to prevent looting, with Minneapolis-based Target announcing it was temporarily closing two dozen area stores. Minneapolis shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through Sunday out of safety concerns.
By Thursday night, hundreds of demonstrators returned to the Minneapolis neighbourhood at the centre of the violence. Demonstrators carried clothing mannequins from a looted Target and threw them onto a burning car.
Elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets calling for justice.
‘We’re burning our own neighbourhood’
Local leaders repeatedly urged demonstrators to avoid violence.
“Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest. Please keep the focus on George Floyd, on advancing our movement and on preventing this from ever happening again,” tweeted St Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who is black.
Erika Atson, 20, was among thousands of people who gathered outside government offices in downtown Minneapolis, where organisers had called for a peaceful protest. Many protesters wore masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there were few attempts at social distancing.
Atson, who is black, described seeing her 14- and 11-year-old brothers tackled by Minneapolis police years ago because officers mistakenly presumed the boys had guns. She said she had been at “every single protest” since Floyd’s death and worried about raising children who could be vulnerable in police encounters.
“We don’t want to be here fighting against anyone. We don’t want anyone to be hurt. We don’t want to cause any damages,” she said. “We just want the police officer to be held accountable.”
The group marched peacefully for three hours before another confrontation with police broke out, though details were scarce.
After calling in the Guard on Thursday, Walz urged widespread changes in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they’re charged to protect,” Walz said.
Among the casualties of the protests: a six-story building under construction that was to provide nearly 200 apartments of affordable housing.
“We’re burning our own neighbourhood,” said a distraught Deona Brown, a 24-year-old woman standing with a friend outside the precinct station, where a small group of protesters were shouting at a dozen or so stone-faced police officers in riot gear. “This is where we live, where we shop, and they destroyed it.”
“What that cop did was wrong, but I’m scared now,” Brown said.
Others in the crowd saw something different in the wreckage.
Protesters destroyed property “because the system is broken,” said a young man who identified himself only by his nickname, Cash, and who said he had been in the streets during the violence. He dismissed the idea that the destruction would hurt residents of the largely black neighbourhood.
“They’re making money off of us,” he said angrily of the owners of the destroyed stores. He laughed when asked if he had joined in the looting or violence. “I didn’t break anything.”
In New York City, protesters defied New York’s coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings Thursday, clashing with police, while demonstrators blocked traffic in downtown Denver and downtown Columbus. A day earlier, demonstrators had taken to the streets in Los Angeles and Memphis.
In Louisville, Kentucky, police confirmed that at least seven people had been shot Thursday night as protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in March.
Anger over the killing extended to Africa, where the head of the African Union Commission on Friday rejected “continuing discriminatory practices against black citizens of the USA.” In a series of tweets, Moussa Faki Mahamat urged the “total elimination” of all forms of racism in the US.
In Mississippi, the mayor of the community of Petal resisted calls to resign following his remarks about Floyd’s death. Hal Marx, a Republican, asked on Twitter: “Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?” In a follow-up tweet, he said he “didn’t see anything unreasonable.”
The city on Thursday released a transcript of the 911 call that brought police to the grocery store where Floyd was arrested. The caller described someone paying with a counterfeit bill, with workers rushing outside to find the man sitting on a van. The caller described the man as “awfully drunk” and said he was “not in control of himself.”
Asked by the 911 operator whether the man was “under the influence of something,” the caller said: “Something like that, yes. He is not acting right.” Police said Floyd matched the caller’s description of the suspect.
State and federal authorities are investigating Floyd’s death.
Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, was fired Tuesday, along with three other officers involved in the arrest.
“It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better,” Obama said in a statement.
Obama said it will mainly fall on officials in Minnesota to ensure Floyd’s death is fully investigated “and that justice is ultimately done”.
“But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts,” Obama continued.
– Reported with CNN and AP