Another night of unrest across the United States left scorched and charred landscapes in dozens of cities this Sunday, after years of mounting frustrations over police mistreatment of African-Americans erupted in expressions of anger, which were greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Cars and businesses were burned, the words “I can’t breathe” were painted on the buildings. A bonfire was burning in front of the White House in a garbage container, and thousands of people marched peacefully through the streets in protest of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.
His death added to a litany of racial tragedies that threw the country into chaos in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which left millions of people unemployed and killed more than 100,000 citizens in the United States alone, with a disproportionate number of deaths among the black population.
“We are fed up. The police are out of control,” said protester Olga Halle in Washington, DC “They are wild. Too many boys have died.”
People set police cars on fire, threw bottles at police officers and smashed store windows, taking televisions and other objects, although other protesters urged them to stop. In Indianapolis, police are investigating several shootings, including one that left one person dead amid protests, adding to the deaths in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.
In Minneapolis, the city where the protests began, police, state patrollers, and members of the National Guard acted shortly after the 20-hour curfew began to disperse the protests, using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the streets in front of a police station and other places.
At least 13 police officers were injured in Philadelphia when the peaceful protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. Several dangerous altercations were reported in New York City when the Police made arrests and cleared streets. A video showed two local force patrol cars ramming into a crowd of protesters pushing a barricade against one of the vehicles and throwing objects. Several people fell to the ground, and it was unclear if they were injured.
“The mistakes that are happening are not mistakes. They are repeated terrorist crimes and the Police have to stop killing black people,” said protester Meryl Makielski in Brooklyn.
Few corners of the United States were left out. Protesters lit fires inside Reno City Hall, police used tear gas at stone-throwers in Fargo, North Dakota, and windows of the building were broken at the Richmond Central Police Station, Virginia. In Salt Lake City, protesters overturned a police car and set it on fire. Police reported six detainees and one officer injured after receiving a blow to the head with a baseball bat.
Furthermore, at least 1,669 people have been detained in 22 cities since Thursday, according to a count by The Associated Press. Nearly a third of those arrests were made in Los Angeles, where the governor declared a state of emergency and ordered the National Guard to back the 10,000 police in the city, as dozens of fires burned throughout the urban area.
The damage to American cities occurred as many Americans planned to return to face-to-face religious services on Sunday, for the first time in several weeks due to bans on crowds to combat the pandemic. Priests across the country were likely to make a call for peace among the rubble left by the riots.
Trump seemed to celebrate the toughest strategy the police showed on Saturday night, praising the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis, stating “No games!” And saying that the New York City police “We must allow them to do their job”.
The likely Democratic candidate for president of the country, Joe Biden, condemned the violence but maintained his support for those protesting after Floyd’s death.
“The act of protest should never be allowed to overshadow the reason why we are protesting”, Biden said in a statement Saturday night
Curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities in the country, such as Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.
Not all protests were clouded by violence. In Juneau, Alaska, local police joined protesters in a march in front of a sculpture of a whale on the city’s waterfront.
The show of force in Minneapolis came after three days in which the Police largely avoided confrontation with protesters, and after the State sent more than 4,000 national guards to the city, indicating that the number would soon rise to almost 11 thousand.
“The situation in Minneapolis no longer has anything to do with the murder of George Floyd”, said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. “It is an attack on civil society, to instil fear and disrupt our big cities”.
The streets of the city grew calmer as the night wore on, and Paul Schnell said the tough strategy would be maintained as long as necessary to “quell this situation.”
Some neighbours expressed relief at seeing the unrest dissipate.
“I live here, I haven’t been able to sleep”, said Iman Muhammad, in whose neighbourhood there were several fires on Friday night. Muhammad said he empathized with the peaceful protests over Floyd’s death, but disagreed with the violence. “Evil does not respond to evil”, he sentenced.