MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Americans began cleaning up charred and glass-strewn streets Sunday after another night of unrest fueled by rage over police mistreatment of African Americans destroyed businesses, damaged landmarks and raised tensions across a divided nation to the boiling point.
The chaos reached into every corner of the country, and the scars extended even to buildings near the White House. Some elected officials prepared to deploy additional National Guard troops in anticipation of more turmoil.
Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing. But many demonstrations sank into violence as night fell: Cars and stores were torched. The words “I can’t breathe” were spray-painted all over buildings. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The scale of the protests, sweeping from coast to coast and unfolding on a single night, rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam eras. And by Sunday morning, the fury had spread to Europe, where thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square, clapping and waving placards despite government rules barring crowds because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re sick of it. The cops are out of control,” protester Olga Hall said in Washington, D.C. “They’re wild. There’s just been too many dead boys.”
People set fire to squad cars, threw bottles at officers and broke storefront windows. They carried away TVs and other merchandise even as some protesters urged them to stop. In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead after multiple shootings that happened during downtown violence. Those slayings added to deaths reported in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.
In Minneapolis, the city where the protests began, police, state troopers and National Guard members moved in soon after an 8 p.m. curfew took effect to break up the demonstrations. The show of force came after three days in which police largely avoided engaging protesters, and after the state poured more than 4,000 National Guard troops into Minneapolis. Authorities said that number would soon rise to nearly 11,000.
President Donald Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics, commending the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis and declaring “No games!” He said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the violence as he continued to express common cause with those demonstrating after Floyd’s death.
“The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” Biden said in a late-night statement.
On Sunday, maintenance crews near the White House worked to replace windows that had been shattered with large pieces of wood. Buildings for blocks were marked with graffiti, including curses about Trump and anti-police sentiments. Shattered glass still covered the sidewalks. The damaged buildings included the Department of Veterans Affairs, directly across the street from the White House.
At the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd was killed, people gathered with brooms and flowers, saying it was important to protect what they called a “sacred space.” The intersection was blocked with the traffic cones while a ring of flowers was laid out.
County Commissioner Angela Conley showed up shortly after the curfew lifted, saying that police had trampled flowers and photos of Floyd. “The community needs healing, and what happened last night only exacerbated the pain that’s been felt,” she said of police action.
Conley said the demonstrations and confrontations with police would continue until the other three officers who were at the scene when Floyd was pinned down are arrested and prosecuted. The officer who put his knee on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, was charged last week with murder. All four officers have been fired.
“We’ll continue to have this militarized presence in our community until justice is done,” Conley said.
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