Protests in Minneapolis over the in-custody death of George Floyd escalated into violence Wednesday night, with a fatal shooting near the site of the demonstrations, widespread looting, multiple fires and the deployment of tear gas. It was the second night of conflict during rallies by thousands enraged by Floyd’s death.
The demonstrations in the southern part of the city near the site of Floyd’s death began peacefully but grew more violent as the night went on. Gov. Tim Walz late Wednesday called it an “extremely dangerous situation” and urged residents to leave the area.
Mayor Jacob Frey pleaded with residents for calm.
“I’m imploring our city, imploring our community, imploring every one of us to keep the peace. Let’s honor George Floyd’s memory,” Frey said KARE11 in a phone interview.
One person was in custody in the shooting death near the site of the protests, but the motive and circumstances are unclear and being investigated, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said at a news conference early Thursday.
Multiple fires were reported, and several businesses were looted. Minneapolis police were assisted by officers from nearby St. Paul, state police and metro transit police.
Beyond the shooting, there were no known injuries to protesters or police, and no additional arrests, Elder said.
“Tonight was a different night of protesting than it was just the night before,” Elder said.
A reporter for NBC affiliate KARE11 of Minneapolis who was livestreaming the protest reported that an AutoZone and Target had been looted. A Cub Foods and a Dollar Tree also showed signs of damage and looting.
Video showed the AutoZone with broken windows and spraypaint. One bystander was warning people against damaging the business, saying it had nothing to do with Floyd’s death.
A fire broke out at the AutoZone, a fire department official confirmed Wednesday night.
“Initially … it was just being looted, but at some point, a fire started,” Ricardo Lopez, a journalist for the Minnesota Reformer news organization, told KARE11, adding he wasn’t sure how it began.
Protesters set other fires in the street.
Early Thursday, a reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweeted images of a housing complex construction site that appeared fully engulfed in flames and video of a liquor store that was trashed with shattered glass and boxes littering the sidewalk.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told the local FOX 9 TV station that he ordered the use of tear gas after violence and looting. He said that he is committed to protecting the rights of people to demonstrate and most did so peacefully, but there have been groups committing criminal acts.
Arradondo made a call for peace and patience to let the multiple investigations play out Wednesday night.
“Justice historically has never come to fruition through some of the acts that we’re seeing tonight, whether it’s the looting, whether it’s the damage of property and other things,” Arradondo said in the FOX interview.
Protesters also gathered Wednesday evening at the suburban home of the officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck as well as the Minneapolis home of Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor who would make a charging decision in the case. No violence was reported in those protests.
Protesters also gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday, NBC Los Angeles reported. At times, the demonstrators were on the 101 freeway and blocking traffic.
Some people surrounded two California Highway Patrol vehicles and appeared to damage at least one of them.
Police said there were no arrests or injuries.
“We hear your anger & your pain. We will always facilitate freedom of speech. Period. All we ask is that protests are held in a safe & legal manner,” the LAPD tweeted.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground and put his knee on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes.
His death was captured on video, and he can be heard pleading with the officer, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe.”
Minneapolis police identified the other officers as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
The Minneapolis mayor on Wednesday called for charges to be filed against the officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck. Police had said Floyd resisted arrest, but Frey said “I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.”
His death is being investigated by the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Video of Floyd’s death has sparked outrage, including from presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who tweeted about it on Tuesday and on Wednesday called it a “tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but a part of an ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country.”
President Donald Trump also weighed in on Wednesday. “My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!” he tweeted.
Bridgett Floyd, Floyd’s sister, said on NBC’s “TODAY” show Wednesday morning that she wants all of the officers at the scene to be charged with murder.
“They murdered my brother. He was crying for help,” she said.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, which represents the department’s 800-plus rank-and file officers, asked the public not to rush to judgment before all video can be reviewed and a medical examiner’s report is released.
On Tuesday, clashes broke out between police and some protesters in Minneapolis, and police deployed tear gas.
“We cannot have members of our community engaging in destructive or criminal types of behavior,” said Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief said.
He said the vast majority of people protesting have been doing so peacefully.