Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said early Saturday that the goal of protesters in Minneapolis is “wanton destruction.”
Protests have spread across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck as Floyd lay on the ground. The image has been seen around the world and has sparked outrage.
Walz said the demonstration in Minneapolis is not about grieving but is instead about “absolute chaos.”
Protesters in Minneapolis have burned businesses, cars and at least one police station. The Star Tribune reported that protesters had fired at police.
“We cannot arrest people because of the sheer size of the dynamics,” Walz said. “Shots are being fired back at our people.”
At least 500 National Guard members have already been deployed to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard said there will be more than 1,700 National Guard in the area by Sunday. The Washington Post reported it would be the largest deployment of civilian law enforcement in the state's history.
The Associated Press reported that the Pentagon had ordered the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis. Soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York have been ordered to be ready to deploy within four hours if called, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders, AP said, adding that soldiers in Fort Carson, in Colorado, and Fort Riley in Kansas have been told to be ready within 24 hours.
A peaceful protest in Portland, Oregon, about Floyd’s death turned violent hours later when protesters broke into police headquarters, where they set a fire. The demonstrators also vandalized stores, set other fires and threw projectiles at police, according to an Associated Press report. Police described the turn of events as a “riot” on Twitter.
In Washington, protests Friday at Lafayette Park outside the White House led officials to lock down the building. Reporters said protesters, some spray-painting a nearby building, clashed with Secret Service members. Protesters also removed part of a barricade.
Demonstrators in New York City took to the streets for a second day to protest the death of Floyd, 46. Reports say some in the crowd pushed against metal barricades as police pushed back.
The Los Angeles Police Department declared an unlawful assembly after protesters smashed shop windows and blocked a freeway. Police marched into downtown Los Angeles to remove the demonstrators.
In Atlanta, Georgia, hundreds of protesters confronted police outside CNN headquarters, some throwing water bottles and chanting, “Quit your jobs.” The governor eventually declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard.
“This is not a protest,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in an emotional plea to the demonstrators in the Southern city. “This is chaos. A protest has purpose. . . You are disgracing our city. We are better than this as a city. We are better than this as a country.” Five hundred Georgia National Guard are being deployed to Atlanta.
Protests also took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Houston, Texas, where Floyd grew up. More than 60 protesters marched on the freeway in Houston for half an hour, shutting down traffic.
The Midwestern city of Minneapolis, where the killing took place, remains on edge following three nights of protests that started peacefully but gave way to arson and looting.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a nighttime curfew running from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.
Minneapolis announced late Friday that a $500,000 bail has been set for Derek
Chauvin, the former police officer charged with Floyd’s death. The Washington Post later reported that Chauvin's wife has filed for divorce.
Earlier Friday, officials in Hennepin County, Minnesota, announced charges against Chauvin, who is seen in cellphone video of the incident kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleads that he can’t breathe.
Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after the incident. His family responded to the charges, saying in a statement it wants prosecutors to take a tougher approach.
“The arrest of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the brutal killing of George Floyd is a welcome but overdue step on the road to justice. We expected a first-degree murder charge. We want a first-degree murder charge. And we want to see the other officers arrested. We call on authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer.”
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, told VOA that the killing of Floyd shows that “we have in this country not dealt with the issues of race and the value of African American lives in Minneapolis.”
He said peaceful protests are “a way for the citizens of this country to bring forth grievances of injustice,” and said NAACP members “absolutely oppose rioting, that never solves anything.”
U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that he had spoken with the family of Floyd and expressed his sorrow. Speaking during an event at the White House, Trump said "we can't allow" the demonstrations in Minneapolis "to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos." He said looters should not be able to drown out peaceful protests.
Protesters vented their anger in Minneapolis on Thursday night, setting a police precinct and businesses on fire and smashing windows of businesses. The National Guard was mobilized as the twin city of St. Paul was also rocked by another night of violence.
Trump had tweeted early Friday that the rioters are “THUGS” who “are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd.”
He also threatened to bring Minneapolis “under control” and tweeted that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
....These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
Twitter added a warning to Trump’s tweet about shooting, saying it violates its rules “about glorifying violence.” The social media company later flagged Trump’s reference to “thugs.”
The White House later said “the president did not glorify violence, but condemned it.”
Trump clarified on Twitter on Friday "Looting leads to shooting ... I don't want this to happen, and that's what the expression put out last night means."
The death of Floyd was captured on cellphone video that went viral after it was posted online. “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man,” Floyd pleaded, while being restrained by Chauvin.
Chauvin told a handcuffed Floyd to “relax,” but the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck after the man stopped moving. One witness said he heard Floyd calling out for his mother. The video shows Floyd's head turned to the side, and he does not appear to be resisting. Toward the end of the video, paramedics arrive, lift a limp Floyd onto a stretcher and place him in an ambulance. Authorities later told reporters Floyd died at the hospital.
Minneapolis police said Floyd resembled a suspect wanted for allegedly trying to spend a counterfeit $20 bill in a food store and that he had resisted arrest.
Mayor Frey said early Friday the city is in “a lot of pain and anger” but the looting and burning to protest George Floyd’s death is “unacceptable.”
Frey said the damaged properties, including a police precinct, are “essential to our community.” He said he decided to let the precinct burn late Thursday after receiving reports that protesters were trying to breach the premises. Frey said he ordered police personnel to evacuate from the precinct before it was set ablaze because it became too dangerous for them.
Frey also responded to Trump’s tweets that Minneapolis suffers from a “total lack of leadership.”
Frey said “Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis,” and added, “We are strong as hell.”
Walz, the governor, also criticized Trump, saying his references in his tweets to “thugs” and “shooting” are counterproductive.
“In the moment where we’re at, in a moment that is so volatile, anything we do to add fuel to that fire is really not helpful,” Walz said at a Friday news conference. “There is a way to do this without inflaming (tensions).”
Attorney General William Barr said Friday the images “of the incident that ended with the death of Mr. Floyd, while in custody of Minneapolis police officers, were harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing.” Barr also said an independent investigation is being conducted by the Justice Department and the FBI.
Former President Barack Obama tweeted Friday about Floyd’s death, calling on the country to treat all citizens with dignity and respect.
“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal.’
“It shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America,” Obama added. “It can’t be ‘normal.’”
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020
Floyd and Chauvin knew each other from working security jobs together at the same Minneapolis nightclub, City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins told CNN on Friday.
Chauvin was a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department who had at least a dozen complaints filed against him about his conduct, according to NBC News and other news outlets. NBC reports that records show Chauvin was not disciplined over the complaints but received one “letter of reprimand.”
The other officers involved in Floyd’s restraint have been identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. They are under investigation.
Separately, a CNN crew was arrested in Minneapolis on live television early Friday after protests overnight about Floyd’s death.
As reporter Omar Jimenez, who is black and Latino, and two other crew members were arrested, the camera continued to run. During the incident, Jimenez asked why he was being arrested. CNN said Walz has apologized to the network.
Because of Floyd’s “I can’t breathe,” comment, his death was quickly compared to that of Eric Garner, a black man in New York who died in 2014 after a white officer placed him in a chokehold while he begged for his life. Garner also told officers, “I can’t breathe,” a cry that became a national rallying point against the country’s long history of police brutality.
Floyd’s death comes weeks after three people were charged with the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in the southern state of Georgia. The African American man was killed in February, allegedly by a white former Glynn County police officer and his son who claim they mistook Arbery for a burglar while he was jogging. The two were charged only after a video of the shooting emerged several weeks later.