Another night of outrage left stores looted and cars smoldering in many U.S. cities on Sunday as curfews failed to quell violence that replaced peaceful daytime demonstrations over the death of a black man seen on video gasping for breath as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
In the wake of the protests, the National Guard announced that roughly 5,000 guardsmen and airmen have been activated to assist local law enforcement in response to “civil disturbances in 15 states and the District of Columbia.”
An additional 2,000 members of the Guard are on standby to be activated if needed, and the “situation is fluid,” so those numbers are liable to change, reads a statement from the National Guard Bureau.
States that have activated National Guard personnel for the purpose of responding to civil disturbances are Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.
“The National Guard personnel assigned to these missions are trained, equipped and prepared to assist law enforcement authorities with protecting lives and property of citizens in their state,” reads the National Guard statement. “Guardsmen live in the communities they serve, and are there to protect their neighbor's right to protest peacefully.”
In Salt Lake City, a man aimed a bow and arrow at protesters and was attacked by the crowd. Fires burned in the streets of Los Angeles. Protesters ripped apart an American flag in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in many cities.
In New York City, police arrested about 350 people overnight and 30 officers suffered minor injuries. Mayor Bill de Blasio said police conduct was being investigated, including widely shared videos showing a police sports utility vehicle in Brooklyn lurching forward into a crowd of protesters who were pelting the car with debris.
De Blasio said he had not seen another video showing an officer pulling down the mask of a black protester who had his hands in the air, then spraying a substance in his face.
The sight of protesters flooding streets fueled a sense of crisis in the United States after weeks of lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen millions thrown out of work and has disproportionately affected minority communities.
The closely packed crowds and many demonstrators not wearing masks sparked fears of a resurgence of COVID-19, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans.
Violence spread overnight despite curfews in several major cities rocked by civil unrest in recent days, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Cincinnati, Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky.
Protests also flared in Chicago, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, and Dallas, where rioters were seen on video beating a store owner who chased them with a large machete or sword. Police said on Sunday that the man was in a stable condition.
'Destructive and unacceptable'
The clashes in Minneapolis marked the fifth night of arson, looting and vandalism in parts of the state's largest city, and its adjacent capital, St. Paul. The state's governor said on Saturday that he was activating the full Minnesota National Guard for the first time since World War Two.
About 170 stores have been looted and some burned to the ground in St. Paul, its mayor said on Sunday.
“We are seeing in St. Paul and obviously around the country this level of rage and anger that frankly is legitimate, as we see this horrific video of George Floyd being just suffocated to death,” Mayor Melvin Carter told CNN. “Unfortunately, it's being expressed right now, over the past week, in ways that are destructive and unacceptable.”
While covering the protests in Minneapolis on Saturday night, two members of a Reuters TV crew were hit by rubber bullets and a Reuters photographer's camera was smashed as attacks against journalists covering civil unrest in U.S. cities intensified.In response to the protests, Target Corp announced it was closing 100 stores, with about 30 in Minnesota.
The administration of President Donald Trump, who has called protesters “thugs”, will not federalize and take control of the National Guard for now, national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on Sunday.
Demands for an end to police brutality have spread globally.
In London, hundreds of protesters took to Trafalgar Square on Sunday chanting “no justice, no peace.” On Saturday, a crowd descended on the U.S. Embassy in Berlin calling for the police officers to face justice.
The arrest on murder charges on Friday of Derek Chauvin, the police officer seen kneeling on Floyd's neck, has failed to satisfy protesters. Three officers who stood by as Floyd died have yet to be charged.
Floyd's name is only the latest to be chanted by protesters over the perceived lack of police accountability for violent encounters that resulted in the death of black men.
The issue ignited in 2014 with the shooting death of a black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, where police fired tear gas at protesters on Saturday night.
(Reporting Brendan O'Brien and Carlos Barria in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely, Maria Caspani and Sinead Carew in New York, Susan Heavey in Washington, and Brad Brooks in Austin; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Daniel Wallis)