Protests erupted across the U.S. on Thursday following days of increasingly tense demonstrations in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck.
Floyd died on Monday after a police officer pinned him to the ground for several minutes while he repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” The shocking incident, which was captured on video, has prompted a nationwide outcry. The four officers involved were fired, but Floyd’s family, community leaders and protesters are calling for their arrest and an end to police violence.
Demonstrations rocked Minneapolis on Tuesday, Wednesday and into Thursday night, leading to looting and violent clashes with police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets. One person was fatally shot.
Floyd’s brother, Philonese Floyd, stressed on CNN on Thursday morning that protests should be peaceful, but he said people were acting out because they are “torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing Black men die. Constantly, over and over again.”
“These officers, they need to be arrested right now. They need to be arrested and held accountable about everything because these people want justice right now,” he said. He called for the four officers to be “arrested, convicted of murder and given the death penalty.”
Videos on social media show protesters in cities across the U.S. calling for justice for Floyd.
In Minnesota, for the third consecutive night, groups rallied in St. Paul and in neighboring Minneapolis, scattered across the city on street corners, at the intersection where Floyd died and outside the Minneapolis 3rd Precinct police station, where the officers were believed to have worked. Reports indicated the precinct was breached by protesters Thursday night and nearby buildings were set alight. The Minneapolis Police Department released a statement that the precinct had been evacuated.
Earlier Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard as the city braced for the night’s protests.
Earlier, groups also stood outside the home and government offices of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. who will handle the investigation, to demand criminal prosecution of the officers involved: Derek Chauvin, the man who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck; Thomas Lane; Tou Thao; and J. Alexander Kueng.
In New York, more than 40 people were arrested Thursday night in Manhattan as hundreds protested police violence. Floyd’s death particularly struck a nerve in the city as it drew grim comparisons to the death of Eric Garner, a Black man whose final words before he died in police custody were “I can’t breathe.”
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told NBC News that hearing those words again was like “a recurring nightmare.”
Peaceful protests across Denver also escalated Thursday evening, after gunshots were fired near the Colorado State Capitol.
“We do believe that the shots were towards the Capitol, but we do not at this point have any correlation to the protest or the protesters,” Denver police spokesman Kurt Barnes told the Denver Post. No injuries were reported.
Police also fired tear gas and pepper spray to disperse hundreds of protesters on the Capitol lawn and on Interstate 25, where protesters blocked traffic.
Several hundred protesters, some carrying signs reading “Black lives matter,” marched through downtown Denver.
A video also appeared to show a car drive through a crowd of protesters downtown and turn to knock over a protester.
In California, a protest in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday grew fraught, leading to two police cars being vandalized and one demonstrator hurt, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In a statement to the newspaper, the Los Angles Police Department said, “We hear your anger and your pain. We will always facilitate freedom of speech. Period. All we ask is that protests are held in a safe and legal manner.”
A smaller protest was also held in Oakland on Thursday.
In Birmingham, Alabama, more than 100 people gathered to express their anger over Floyd’s death.
“We didn’t come here to be nice tonight. We didn’t come here to play around tonight. Hopefully we are here because we are tired of what’s happening,” Carlos Chaverst, one of the organizers, told local news site Al.com. “We should be fed up with seeing Black men and women being killed in the street by police.”
Meanwhile, in Louisville, Kentucky, more than 500 people gathered to protest the shooting death of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was killed by police on March 13 when they entered her apartment with a drug warrant looking for someone else.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, gunshots were reported just before 11:30 p.m. in downtown Louisville after several hours of peaceful demonstrations. Protesters had marched and chanted “No justice, no peace,” but the situation escalated when a crowd reportedly tried to flip a vehicle.
Peaceful protests in Columbus, Ohio, broke out into chaos Thursday night after people began throwing objects at police, prompting the officers to fire tear gas to push back crowds, NBC4i reported.
Protesters had chanted “Black lives matter” and “Say his name.”
The Ohio Statehouse was reportedly breached after windows were broken.
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