Protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd ignited once again on Friday across the US, as demonstrators clashed with police in Minneapolis, New York and Atlanta.
Gatherings were largely peaceful as people marched in the streets from Los Angeles to New York, but in Atlanta, demonstrators set a police car ablaze and broke windows at CNN’s headquarters. Meanwhile, in Washington, the White House temporarily went under lockdown orders as protesters gathered outside.
The Minnesota governor, who set an 8pm curfew for the city of Minneapolis, had pledged that Friday would be different from the previous night, when officers abandoned the area around the third police precinct to thousands of angry demonstrators who set fire to the building.
But as the curfew arrived, the protesters were back out in force and not giving ground. Thousands gathered around the police station.
Once again the police retreated. Once again the protesters took control. Defying repeated orders, and waves of teargas, they kept pushing forward until the police gave way.
Within half an hour the police station, the symbol of what the protesters saw as their victory the previous evening, was back in their hands. They celebrated with selfies and tours of its wrecked interior.
As the sun went down, the protesters kept pushing the police back. The governor had threatened to send in the national guard, but it was nowhere to be seen. Neither, for now, was there a repeat of the looting and burning of buildings.
Protests have raged all week in the wake of Floyd’s death, with protesters calling for an end to police brutality and justice for him and other black Americans, including Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in March by police officers in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a retired law enforcement officer and his son in Georgia while out jogging.
As the protests continue, with more expected this weekend, city officials have called for calm and law enforcement teams are deploying tear gas, rubber bullets, and even drone surveillance against the crowds.
The largest protests so far have been in Minneapolis and St Paul, where officers pinned down Floyd until he became unresponsive.
On Friday morning crowds returned, and many helped clean up the damage to businesses and other buildings across the Twin Cities. A local mental health clinic distributed food to the community, and neighbors offered to keep watch over each other through another night of protests.
Minnesota’s governor Tim Walz issued an executive order to set a temporary curfew for Minneapolis and St Paul on Friday afternoon; anyone traveling on public streets or gathering in public places past 8pm could face prison time and $1,000 in fines.
In downtown Minneapolis, a group of protestors Friday afternoon took a knee in front of state patrol officers and national guard members for nine minutes. Police pinned Floyd down for nearly nine minutes before he became unresponsive and died.
Unrest across the country
A demonstration in Atlanta that started peacefully quickly changed tone Friday evening. Protesters used barricades to break police vehicle windshields and jumped from car to car. Hundreds of the protesters confronted police outside CNN headquarters. They spray-painted the large, iconic CNN logo outside the building, breaking a windowed entrance. One protester climbed on top of the sign and waved a Black Lives Matter flag to cheers from the crowd.
In New York City, hundreds have gathered in Foley Square on Friday, where the mother of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer put him in a chokehold, while repeatedly crying out, as Floyd did, “I can’t breathe.”
“They have to stop coming into our neighborhoods and brutalizing, terrorizing, murdering,” said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, who wore a mask with “I can’t breathe” printed on the front. “We have to take a stand,” she said. The night before, the New York police made more than 70 arrests and citations, according to the NYPD, charging protesters with assault and resisting arrest.
The police presence was heavy as demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn bridge. Hundreds of protestors also gathered at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday evening chanting, “Fuck the police,” and “No justice, no peace.”
“Police violence is one of the biggest health issues in our country,” said Kimberly Sue, a physician who has also been treating coronavirus patients. “Whether it’s Covid or cops it lowers the life expectancy of black people in this country.”
In downtown Houston, hundreds have taken to the streets, marching toward city hall. In San Jose, California, protestors blocked a major highway.
Arrest of officer in Floyd case
The protests came as Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death on Friday, but cities are still bracing for more protests over Floyd’s death and the broader issue of police brutality. Three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have not yet been charged.
Denver mayor Michael Hancock called for calm and unity on Friday, following protests the previous night that saw shots fired, though no injuries. “Let not the story be about the riots and protests. Let’s keep the focus on the life that was lost,” he said at a news briefing.
Martin Luther King III, the son of the late Martin Luther King Jr has repeatedly evoked his father’s message that “a riot is the language of the unheard”.
“And what is it America has failed to hear?” King Jr said. “It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.”
Friday’s demonstrations come on the heels of protests in numerous cities the night before. In Columbus, Ohio, crowds smashed windows at the Ohio Statehouse and storefronts along surrounding downtown streets, and about 400 faced off with the Columbus police on Thursday night, according to the Columbus Dispatch. In Phoenix, protesters who marched from city hall to the state capitol on Thursday night into Friday morning carried signs reading, “Silence is violence” and “Being black should not be a death sentence”, the Arizona Republic reported. And in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was killed, Taylor’s mother called for an end to violence. On Thursday night, seven people suffered gunshot wounds after shots were fired at the protest.
“Breonna devoted her own life to saving other lives, to helping others, to making people smile and bringing people together,” Taylor’s mother said in a statement on Friday morning. Taylor, a 26-year-old black medical technician who worked at two Louisville hospitals, was shot and killed by police in her own home in an early morning 13 March raid by officers serving a no-knock warrant on a narcotics investigation.
“The last thing she’d want to see right now is any more violence.”
Ankita Rao and agencies contributed reporting