George Floyd death: 19-year-old protester killed in Detroit; Minneapolis police arrest people for defying curfew

MINNEAPOLIS (REUTERS, NYTIMES) – A 19-year-old protester in Detroit was shot dead on Friday during countrywide protests unleashed by the alleged murder of a black man in Minneapolis by a white police officer who had pinned him by the neck.

The 19-year-old man protesting in Detroit was killed by a suspect who pulled up to demonstrators in a sport utility vehicle and fired gunshots into the crowd, then fled, the Detroit Free Press and other local media reported.

Few if any other serious injuries or deaths have been reported in connection with the protests.

The police in Minneapolis began arresting protesters who defied a newly issued curfew on Friday (May 29) night to swarm smoky intersections on the fourth night of protests since Mr George Floyd’s death in police custody.

Gunshots rang out near a police precinct and flames streamed from several businesses – a gas station, a post office, a bank, a restaurant – as residents continued to show their anger even after a police officer was charged with third-degree murder.

Protesters marched peacefully for much of the day in Minneapolis, but the demonstrations escalated around 11pm local time, three hours after a curfew went into effect for the first time since Mr Floyd’s death. Demonstrations were held in dozens of cities, several of which turned destructive, including those in Atlanta, New York and San Jose, California.

In Minneapolis, protesters gathered near the Police Department’s 5th Precinct the day after they had taken over another precinct and set it on fire. Unlike Thursday, the police did not abandon the precinct, even as shots were reportedly fired in the area. Several protesters were arrested for refusing to disperse, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said on Twitter.

In a late-night tweet, governor Tim Walz urged residents to “go home immediately”, saying the streets were not safe for civilians or emergency workers.

Mr Paul Gazelka, the Republican majority leader of the state Senate, told the KARE 11 news that he was frustrated the police had not acted more swiftly to clear the streets.

“You cannot allow anarchy,” he said. “You cannot allow this lawlessness to continue.”

Mr Walz, who activated the National Guard on Thursday as local police appeared to lose control over demonstrators, had extended the curfew to St Paul and said guardsmen would return to the streets in anticipation of more protests.

During a news conference on Friday, the governor said officials should have anticipated that the protests could become violent, but he said it was unrealistic to expect law enforcement to stop people from coming out to demonstrate, even amid the social-distancing orders that have been imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Watching what happened to George Floyd had people say, ‘To hell with staying home’,” he said. “The idea that we would go in and break up those expressions of grief and rage was ridiculous.”

Mr Walz acknowledged that the Minneapolis police had lost the trust of city residents, but he implored residents to see the National Guard as a peacekeeping force meant to keep “anarchists” from taking over and destroying more of the city.

“I need to ask Minnesotans, those in pain and those who feel like justice has not been served yet, you need to help us create the space so that justice will be served,” the governor said. “It is my expectation that it will be swift.”

Days of protests had intensified Thursday night when the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct stationhouse was overrun by a crowd of protesters, with some people tossing fireworks and other items at officers, while the police fired projectiles back.

Officers retreated in vehicles just after 10pm Thursday local time as protesters stormed the building – smashing equipment, lighting fires and setting off fireworks, according to videos posted from the scene.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, said he understood the anger of the city’s residents but pleaded with people to stop destroying property and looting stores.

“It’s not just enough to do the right thing yourself,” he said. “We need to be making sure that all of us are held accountable.”

PROTESTERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY BLOCKED HIGHWAYS, CLASHED WITH POLICE

Chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe”, thousands of protesters gathered in cities across the country on Friday night after a fired Minneapolis police officer was charged with third-degree murder in Mr Floyd’s death.

Crowds shut down Los Angeles freeways, clashed with the police in Dallas and defaced the CNN Centre in Atlanta, where mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms declared: “This is not how we change America.”

Demonstrators in many other cities, including New York, also gathered to voice their anger:

– A large crowd in Washington chanted outside the White House, prompting the Secret Service to temporarily lock down the building. Video on social media showed demonstrators knocking down barricades and spray-painting other buildings.

– A march in Houston where Mr Floyd grew up, briefly turned chaotic as the windows of a police SUV were smashed and at least 12 protesters were arrested. As a standoff continued, the police shut all roads into and out of downtown.

“We don’t want these young people’s legitimate grievances and legitimate concerns to be overshadowed by a handful of provocateurs and anarchists,” the city’s police chief, Mr Art Acevedo, said in an interview.

– Images from news helicopters above San Jose, California, showed protesters throwing objects at police officers, blocking a major freeway and setting fires downtown. Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an interview that he watched from City Hall as a peaceful protest – what he called people “expressing their righteous outrage on the injustice in Minneapolis” – turned violent.

– Demonstrators in Los Angeles blocked the 110 Freeway, marching through downtown and around Staples Centre. Local television footage showed police officers clashing with a crowd suspected of vandalising a patrol car. By 9.30pm, LAPD had declared all of downtown to be an unlawful assembly and was warning residents of the loft districts to stay inside.

– “Black is not a crime,” declared a small crowd gathered outside police headquarters in Detroit. Ms Mary Sheffield, a member of the City Council, led a chant, proclaiming: “I’m fired up. I’m fed up.” The demonstration later swelled to more than 1,000 protesters, who blocked traffic while marching on major thoroughfares leading downtown.

– In downtown Dallas, protesters and the police clashed during a demonstration blocks from City Hall. Protesters blocked the path of a police vehicle and then started banging on its hood. Officers eventually responded with tear gas, and a flash-bang was later heard.

– In Portland, Oregon, demonstrators broke into the Multnomah County Justice Centre and lit a fire inside the building late Friday night, authorities said.

– Hundreds of protesters converged on Civic Centre Park in Denver, waving signs and chanting as Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come played over a loudspeaker. Some thrust fists in the air and scrawled messages on the ground in chalk, according to a news broadcast.

– Protesters in Milwaukee briefly shut down part of a major highway, according to WTMJ-TV, and demonstrators shouted “I can’t breathe” – echoing Mr Floyd’s anguished plea and the words of Mr Eric Garner, a black man who died in New York police custody in 2014.

FIRED OFFICER CHARGED WITH THIRD-DEGREE MURDER AFTER FLOYD’S DEATH

The former Minneapolis police officer who was seen on video using his knee to pin down Mr Floyd, who died shortly after, was arrested and charged with murder, the authorities announced on Friday.

The former officer, Derek Chauvin, who is white, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Mr Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, said. An investigation into the other three officers who were present at the scene on Monday was continuing, he said.

Mr Floyd’s relatives said in a statement that they were disappointed by the decision not to seek first-degree murder charges. Mr Floyd, who was black, died on Monday after pleading “I can’t breathe” while Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, in an encounter that was captured on video.

Third-degree murder does not require an intent to kill, according to the Minnesota statute, only that the perpetrator caused someone’s death in a dangerous act “without regard for human life”. Charges of first- and second-degree murder require prosecutors to prove, in almost all cases, that the perpetrator made a decision to kill the victim.

Chauvin, 44, was also charged with second-degree manslaughter, a charge that requires prosecutors to prove he was so negligent as to create an “unreasonable risk”, and consciously took the chance that his actions would cause Floyd, 46, to be severely harmed or die.

Ms Camille Gage, 63, an artist and musician who joined the protests, said she was relieved that Chauvin had been charged.

“How can anyone watch that video and think it was anything less?” she said. “Such blatant disregard for another living soul.”

The developments came after a night of chaos in which protesters set fire to a police station in Minneapolis, the National Guard was deployed to help restore order, and President Donald Trump injected himself into the mix with tweets that appeared to threaten violence against protesters.

Mr Walz, a Democrat, expressed solidarity with the protesters during a news conference Friday but said that a return to order was needed to lift up the voices of “those who are expressing rage and anger and those who are demanding justice” and “not those who throw firebombs”. A lawyer for Chauvin’s wife, Kellie, said that she was devastated by Floyd’s death and expressed sympathy for his family and those grieving his loss. The case has also led Chauvin to seek a divorce, the lawyer, Ms Amanda Mason-Sekula, said in an interview on Friday night.

Mr Trump, who previously called the video of Mr Floyd’s death “shocking”, drew criticism for a tweet early Friday that called the protesters “thugs” and said that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. The comments prompted Twitter to attach a warning to the tweet, saying that it violated the company’s rules about “glorifying violence”.

The president gave his first extensive remarks on the protests later Friday at the White House, declaring that “we can’t allow a situation like happened in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos. It’s very important, I believe, to the family, to everybody, that the memory of George Floyd be a perfect memory”.

Addressing his earlier Twitter comments, Mr Trump said: “The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters. They hurt so badly what is happening.”

POLICE CARS AND CNN SIGN VANDALISED AS UNREST GROWS IN ATLANTA

A demonstration turned destructive in Atlanta on Friday night as hundreds of protesters took to the streets, smashing windows and clashing with the police.

They gathered around Centennial Olympic Park, the city’s iconic tourist destination. People jumped on police cars. Some climbed atop a large red CNN sign outside the media company’s headquarters and spray-painted messages on it. Others threw rocks at the glass doors of the Omni Hotel and shattered windows at the College Football Hall of Fame, where people rushed in and emerged with branded fan gear.

Jay Clay, 19, an Atlanta resident and graphic designer, watched the protests from across a street with a mixture of curiosity and solidarity.

“After all this injustice and prejudice, people get fed up,” Clay said. “I wanted to come down and check it out. But this feels like it’s getting out of hand.”

The mayor pleaded for calm as the demonstrations unfolded.

“It’s enough. You need to go home,” Ms Bottoms said. “We are all angry. This hurts. This hurts everybody in this room. But what are you changing by tearing up a city? You’ve lost all credibility now. This is not how we change America. This is not how we change the world.”

Ms Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, also spoke at the news conference, invoking her father’s legacy.

“Violence in fact creates more problems. It is not a solution,” Ms King said. She said she felt and understood the anger of protesters but added, “There are people who would try to incite a race war in this country. Let’s not fall into their hands and into their trap. There’s another way.”

As the protests went on, police officers in riot gear were gathering. By 9.30pm, tear gas canisters were launched, and a wave of protesters ran back toward the park.

OFFICERS, PROTESTERS TRADE PROJECTILES OUTSIDE NEW YORK BARCLAYS CENTRE

Tensions flared in New York for the second night in a row as thousands of protesters stormed the perimeter of Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, trading projectiles of plastic water bottles, debris, and tear gas and mace with police officers.

The protest had begun peacefully on Friday afternoon, with hundreds chanting, “Black lives matter,” and, “We want justice,” in downtown Manhattan. But the demonstrations took a turn in Brooklyn, where officers made between 50 and 100 arrests, a senior police official said.

Officers with twist-tie handcuffs hanging from their belts stood next to Department of Corrections buses and squad cars with lights flashing, encircling the perimeter. A police helicopter and a large drone whirred in the hot air overhead.

Protesters were later seen throwing water bottles, an umbrella and other objects at officers, who responded by shooting tear gas into the crowd.

As that crowd scattered, protesters gathered in the streets in the nearby Fort Greene neighbourhood, continuing to chant at the police. An empty patrol van was set ablaze, then pillaged, as people pried the doors off the hinges. Fireworks were thrown into the burned shell of the vehicle. Scribbled on the hood was the phrase “dead cops”. By 10pm, riot police had descended on the neighbourhood. Another police official had described the scene in parts of the borough as “out of control”.

Earlier in the evening, several hundred people filled Foley Square near the city’s criminal courthouses. After a man in a green sweatshirt crossed a police barricade, he was swarmed by officers while protesters screamed. He was led away on foot in handcuffs.

“It was kind of his mistake,” said Mr Jason Phillips, 27, of Queens.

“But they were trying to push him back, and as they pushed him back, he slipped, and they took that as some type of threat.”

Despite the frustrations of demonstrators on Friday, police said the number of people detained was much smaller than the night before, when 72 people were arrested.

FLOYD PINNED FOR MINUTES WHILE UNRESPONSIVE, PROSECUTORS SAID

In a probable cause affidavit released on Friday after the charges against Chauvin were filed, prosecutors said that the former officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

“Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive,” the affidavit said.

But preliminary results from an autopsy indicated that Floyd did not die from suffocation or strangulation, prosecutors wrote, and that “the combined effects” of an underlying heart condition, any potential intoxicants and the police restraint likely contributed to his death. He also began complaining that he could not breathe before he was pinned down, the affidavit said.

The officers’ body cameras were running throughout the encounter, prosecutors said.

The other officers, who have been identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, are under investigation. Mr Freeman, the county attorney, said he expected to bring more charges in the case but offered no further details.

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