The unrest in wake of the killing of George Floyd continued over the weekend, intensifying in many places across the country. Protests took place in 22 cities including New York, Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, Seattle, Houston and even the national capital where protesters lit multiple fires right in front of the White House, even as the White House itself turned off all lights and went dark!
According to the Associated Press, over 4000 people have been arrested across the country so far.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, became a victim of police brutality on May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned Floyd to the ground and pressed his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck while in the process of detaining him in connection with a case involving an allegedly fake $20 bill. A video of the killing went viral where in his dying minutes Floyd could be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe” and then becoming unresponsive. Chauvin has now been arrested and charged with third-degree murder, however, that has not had any impact on the nationwide protests that have been going on for six days now.
At ground zero in Minneapolis, situation remained tense over the weekend. Images of a tanker truck speeding into a crowd of protesters on the I-35 W bridge went viral on social media. A video of the incident captured by WCCO may be viewed here:
Meanwhile, city police chief Medaria Arradondo said on Sunday, “Anyone who would set fire to a person’s livelihood and business… They do not love this city. And I would certainly not call them a Minneapolitan. We will do everything we can to protect our city and our businesses.” This was after a fire was reported from the rooftop of a shopping mall. Police claimed that it received at least 383 reports of burglary and damage to property and 131 calls about shots being fired. There were also 23 fires reported in the city.
The local police have drawn flak not only for the actions of officer Chauvin, but also how they treated media persons covering the protests. Early morning on May 29, police arrested CNN reporter Omar Jiminez, a news producer and a camera person, who were reporting on the protests in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. The CNN crew to its credit remained calm, polite and extremely respectful throughout the arbitrary arrest and the camera remained rolling and broadcasting the entire matter live. The video may be viewed here:
Protesters took to the streets in the nation’s capital on the third straight day and even set multiple fires near the White House on Sunday night. The lights of the White House were turned off temporarily. CNN and The New York Times reported that the President was briefly taken to an underground bunker on Friday night itself in face of burgeoning discontent. Protesters had been gathering at Lafayette Park and though the protest was initially peaceful, instances of violence including the burning of at least one police vehicle and damages to a restaurant were reported later. Police reportedly fired tear-gas shells to control the crowd. The National Guard has now been called in to respond to the protests.
New York City
In New York, thousands of protesters took to the streets for the fourth consecutive day. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested across the city including Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter Chiara who was arrested on Saturday night, but released subsequently. Protesters took the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, marching through Soho and into Union Square where protests reportedly got violent and police vehicles were attacked. Protesters also marched through West Village and many gathered at the Washington Square Park. Businesses remained shut and shops boarded up fearing violence. But heartening images of police officers taking a knee in solidarity with protesters also emerged from Foley Square in Manhattan. The officers then bowed their heads as names of black men and women who were killed by the police were read out.
In a statement Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the anger and frustration of protesters saying, “There’s a reason that peaceful protesters are protesting. There are changes we have to make.” But he called out people who came to engage in “violence in a systematic, organized fashion”. His entire statement may be viewed here:
Meanwhile, protesters appeared to have calmed down a bit in Atlanta after curfew was imposed on Sunday and then extended overnight. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms drew praise for her leadership when she reminded protesters in a public address on May 29 that she was also a black woman and a mother of four black children and couldn’t condone violent protests that in her opinion disgraced the life of George Floyd. She further said, “When you burn down this city, you’re burning down our community. If you want change in America, go and register to vote.” She also condemned the desecration of CNN headquarters in the city. Protesters had not only vandalized the exterior or the building including the famous red letters erected outside it bearing the broadcaster’s initials, but also lobbed flash-bang explosives inside the lobby of the news broadcaster’s office.
A state of civil emergency was declared when protests turned violent in Seattle on Sunday. Instances of looting were reported from Bellevue. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, however, minced no words as she tweeted, “I want to acknowledge that much of the violence and destruction, both here in Seattle and across the country, has been instigated and perpetuated by white men. These individuals experience the height of privilege and are co-opting peaceful demonstrations that were organized by and meant to center people of color, particularly Black Americans.”
At least one man was allegedly shot dead during protests in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. The LA Times says that while the man wasn’t publicly identified, he was said to be a Latino man in his twenties. Many instances of fires, looting and vandalism were also reported, especially on Saturday night. A curfew was imposed in the city till 6 AM on Monday morning, and the National Guard has been deployed.