Sun, 20 Sep 2020

Protests in US Continue Amid Curfews, States of Emergency

Voice of America
01 Jun 2020, 09:35 GMT+10

Angry demonstrators carried their protests over the death of George Floyd into a sixth evening in cities across the United States Sunday, raising the prospect of renewed confrontations with police seeking to enforce overnight curfews.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia are among the major cities that have imposed orders banning marchers from the streets after dark. The governors of Texas and Virginia have imposed states of emergency in their states.

Fires, vandalism, looting and violence - much of it aimed at police - have flared over the last five nights. The marchers, black and white, are showing their anger not just at what they say is harsh police treatment of black men and women, but at systemic racism in the United States.

Police cars and government buildings were set on fire. Store windows were smashed. Monuments in parks were spray painted and vandalized.

Police and National Guard soldiers in riot gear often stood guard as boisterous but largely peaceful street demonstrations swelled in size throughout Saturday. But as night fell and curfews were ignored, some of the protests turned violent, prompting police to respond with pepper pellets, tear gas and rubber bullets.

The demonstrations began in Minneapolis, where George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after being held handcuffed, face down, with a police officer's knee on the back of his neck for more than eight minutes.

Widely circulated videos of the incident captured Floyd - who police say was suspected of trying to spend a counterfeit $20 bill in a food store -- pleading that he could not breathe while bystanders called on the officer to let him up.

The officer involved was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter four days later. He and three other officers who were present and did not intervene were fired on Tuesday.

In all, about 5,000 National Guard members have been activated across the country, while another 2,000 are prepared to activate if called.

President Donald Trump has said he understands the rage over Floyd's death, but said all protests must be peaceful. He has condemned the violence and threatened force if crowds do not heed the warnings of police.

Protests near the White House in Washington erupted into violence late Saturday. Some protesters set off fireworks and threw bottles at the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police, who fired pepper spray in response.

Later, hundreds of protesters circled the White House and looted nearby stores as a fire erupted near the historic Hay Adams Hotel.

The president has blamed most of the violence on "Antifa and other radical left-wing groups," and offered Minnesota federal military assistance.

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Attorney General William Barr said "the outrage of our national community about what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is real and legitimate.

"Accountability for his death must be addressed," he continued, "and is being addressed, through the regular process of our criminal justice system, both at the state and at the federal level. That system is working and moving at exceptional speed. Already initial charges have been filed. That process continues to move forward. Justice will be served."

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said organized agitators from outside the state were responsible for some of the violence, including white supremacists, anarchists and people associated with drug cartels.

There were multiple shootings Saturday in downtown Indianapolis. One person was killed, and two were wounded. Police Chief Randal Taylor urged residents who did not live in the area to leave because, he said, "Downtown is not safe at this time."

Nearly 1,400 people had been arrested across the country, according to an Associated Press tally Saturday. That total does not include arrests overnight Saturday and on Sunday.

Numerous Minneapolis businesses suffered extensive property damage as protesters randomly looted stores in a neighborhood near the site where Floyd died. Somali-American business owner Ahmed Siyad Shafi'i told VOA that vandals attacked all his of his stores overnight.

"They broke the glass, the doors, the windows," he said, "and take whatever they can take." Shafi'i, the owner of a restaurant and clothing store in South Minneapolis, called it "unacceptable" for anyone to destroy personal property and suggested peaceful protests.

VOA's Somali Service contributed to this story.

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