U.S. cities see sporadic violence in protests after Trump threats

By | June 2, 2020

American cities erupted in violence and destruction in a sixth straight night of unrest, amid boasts and threats from President Donald Trump to send in troops to “dominate the streets.”

In Philadelphia, hundreds of protesters spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city, while in Atlanta, police fired tear gas at demonstrators. In Nashville, more than 60 National Guard members put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of Tennessee’s Capitol to honour George Floyd, the Minneapolis man killed by police on May 25.

An unprecedented curfew in New York City did little to prevent destruction as groups of people smashed their way into shops, including Macy’s flagship Manhattan store, grabbed merchandise and fled.

“Some people are out tonight not to protest but to destroy property and hurt others — and those people are being arrested,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted late Monday. “Their actions are unacceptable and we won’t allow them in our city.”

New York police said more than 200 people were arrested and several officers were injured Monday night and early Tuesday that followed another day of peaceful protests throughout the city. One officer was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, police said.

WATCH l Claims about outside agitators are questionable:

Some officials claim the majority of people arrested during the protests over George Floyd’s death are outside agitators, but other data shows it’s actually local residents. 2:03

More than 5,600 people nationwide have been arrested over the past week for offences such as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count by The Associated Press.

For nearly a week since Floyd’s death, largely peaceful protests by day have turned to chaos at night.

“We have been sitting on a powder keg for some time, and it has burst,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

Deaths reported but circumstances not yet clear

According to figures compiled by The Associated Press, at least nine have been killed from the unrest arising from clashes following Floyd’s death, including two people killed in a Chicago suburb on Monday night, although the exact origins of the incidents were unclear in some cases.

A vehicle plowed through a group of law enforcement officers at a demonstration in Buffalo, injuring at least two.

An officer was shot shortly before midnight near the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas, while four officers were shot in St. Louis, Mo., where police said they were in non-life-threatening condition.

A protester throws back a tear gas can shot by the police during a protest in St Louis on Tuesday. Police say four officers were hit by gunfire in the city. (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)

Trump emerged Monday evening after two days largely out of public view. He threatened from the White House Rose Garden to deploy “thousands and thousands” of U.S. troops.

Trump warned that if governors don’t deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to “dominate the streets,” the U.S. military will step in to “quickly solve the problem for them.”

“We have the greatest country in the world,” the president declared. “We’re going to keep it safe.”

Trump made little effort to address the grievances of black Americans and others outraged by Floyd’s death and police brutality, undermining what his re-election campaign had hoped would be an increased appeal to African American voters.

While there was sporadic violence across the country, there were also acts of solidarity. A police officer is shown in Atlanta embracing a protester who helped disperse a crowd of people during a demonstration on Monday. (John Bazemore/The Associated Press)

Federal law allows presidents to dispatch the military to states to suppress an insurrection or if a state is defying federal law, legal experts said. But officials in New York and other states asserted that the president does not have a unilateral right to send in troops against the will of local governments.

Former vice-president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate in November’s election, vowed to address institutional racism in his first 100 days in office. He met in person with black leaders in Delaware and also held a virtual meeting with big-city mayors and is scheduled to visit Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Biden’s remarks in Philadelphia were released to reporters ahead of the visit.

“I promise you this, I won’t traffic in fear and division,” Biden is expected to say. “I won’t fan the flames of hate.”

In Minnesota, site of the deadly incident that sparked the protests, at least 65 people were arrested at the State Capitol building in St. Paul on Monday night for violating a curfew, police said. They had gathered peacefully on the Capitol grounds following a march down a St. Paul street.

WATCH | Will calls for peace, crackdowns change U.S. protests?

Adrienne Arsenault talks to Black Lives Canada founder Sandy Hudson about how calls for peace and further crackdowns might influence the ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd. 3:48

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