George Floyd killing: US race protests spread to dozens of cities

Dozens of cities across the US, including Minneapolis, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., have seen further protests over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

Atlanta, Philadelphia and Los Angeles were among the cities to introduce curfews for residents from 8 p.m. on Saturday night.

Police confronted protesters who broke curfew in Minneapolis. At least 13 officers in Philadelphia were injured when peaceful demonstrations turned violent, and police in several cities used tear gas in attempts to quell protests.

At a protest in Tallahassee, Florida, a person drove a pickup truck through a crowd of protesters gathered at an intersection, hitting some of them. The driver was later arrested and no one was seriously injured, local officials said. The scene was repeated in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where video footage recorded by onlookers showed a police squad car driving into a crowd of protesters.

DW reporter Stefan Simons and his camera operator, Max Foerg, were shot at by police in Minneapolis with a beanbag projectile on Saturday night, in one of two incidents with authorities. In the second incident, the DW crew was threatened with arrest. Simons has confirmed with “absolute” certainty that the shot was fired by the police behind him as he was preparing to go live on air.

US presidential candidate Joe Biden has condemned the violence of the race protests that have erupted across the country, but said late Saturday that Americans had a right to demonstrate.

“Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response,” the presumed Democratic nominee said in a statement. “But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”

Trump threatens military use

Earlier Saturday, US President Donald Trump said the federal government was considering using the military to intervene in the protests.

“We have our military ready, willing and able,” Trump told reporters before departing for Florida. “We can have our military there very quickly.” 

On Twitter, Trump wrote the federal government will use “the unlimited power of our military” as well as carry out arrests.

The Pentagon said it was ready to provide military help to contain unrest in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd was killed on Monday. So far, the governor of Minnesota has not made the request. 

Any involvement by federal forces would likely primarily consist of military police providing logistical support, defense officials told The Associated Press.

National Guard called up

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz moved to fully mobilize the state’s National Guard on Saturday for the first time since World War II, vowing a show of force to shut down unrest that has seen vehicles and buildings destroyed.

“The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” Walz said. “It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”

“We are under assault,” he added. “Order needs to be restored.”

Fears protests will cause coronavirus outbreaks

Mayors and governors have also raised concerns that physical distancing regulations will be ignored during the protests, potentially leading to new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Speaking in Florida after the SpaceX launch, Trump called for “healing, not hatred.”

But Trump’s earlier remarks sparked further outrage after he threatened that if protesters breached the White House grounds, they “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons I have ever seen.” 

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said the remarks were “an attack on humanity, an attack on black America and they make my city less safe.”

The protests have also spread internationally, with thousands of people taking to the streets in the German capital, Berlin, on Saturday to protest Floyd’s death and against racism.

Outrage over killing of George Floyd

George Floyd was an African-American man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis after footage emerged of him in handcuffs pleading for air as a police officer kneeled on his neck. Derek Chauvin, one of the four police officers, was arrested and charged with murder Friday morning following three days of protests.

The protests began in Minneapolis after the footage of Floyd’s killing emerged earlier this week. Demonstrations later spread to other cities across the country.

Floyd’s death, one of the latest high-profile killings of an unarmed black person by police, has tapped into a well of anger over the treatment of the black community and other people of color in the US. 

The protests are also coming amid the coronavirus pandemic which has seen tens of millions of people in US lose their jobs and which has disproportionately affected black people, highlighting discrepancies in health care treatment.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday that the UK hoped to see a reduction in violence in the US. 

rs, ed/sri (AP, dpa, Reuters)
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