Chaos has continued to unfold in cities across America with more than 50 Secret Service agents injured in clashes with protesters in Washington DC, police charging into demonstrators in New York City and lootings continuing to unfold in major cities like California, Philadelphia and Boston.
Demonstrations from Washington DC to Los Angeles swelled from peaceful protests – sparked by the death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday – into scenes of violence that drew National Guard troops in at least 15 states and Washington.
More than 4,100 people were arrested this weekend alone as the violence continued to escalate and cities enacted strict curfews.
The threat of heavy officer presence didn’t deter protesters from lighting fires just mere feet from the White House, crowds raiding high-end stores in New York and San Francisco or hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at police in Philadelphia.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades outside the White House late Sunday as fires were set in the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church and Lafayette Park in front of the White House.
In some cities, thieves smashed their way into stores and ran off with as much as they could carry, leaving shop owners, many of them just ramping up their business again after coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, to clean up their shattered storefronts.
Protests have unfolded in at least 145 cities across the country over the past week as people gather in outrage over the horrifying death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed while in the custody of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day.
The demonstrations have marked unparalleled civil unrest in the US that hasn’t been seen since the 1968 assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Donald Trump spent Sunday berating his enemies on Twitter and demanding ‘law and order’ in Democratic-run cities but did not appear in public and opted against making a televised address to calm tensions. It has since emerged that Trump was rushed by Secret Service agents to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside.
At least 40 cities have imposed curfews – the most since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968 – in light of the riots and violence and National Guard members have been activated in 15 states and Washington, DC.
Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Monday that some of the protesters that terrorized the city overnight had come prepared with tools and supplies. She said they set fires to try and draw police away.
‘We recognize that people are frustrated and mad but tearing up our beautiful city is not the way to bring attention to what is a righteous cause,’ Bowser told NBC’s Today.
She said the city was ‘prepared for multiple days of demonstration’ and officials were working with intelligence to determine who was coming.
In Washington DC, fury erupted even as the hour of an 11pm curfew neared and as police fired tear gas and pepper spray amid blazes in the capital.
On Sunday alone more than 50 Secret Service officers were injured so far, a senior official said to Fox News, after rioters threw bottles and Molotov cocktails at them.
People were seen throwing branches and fireworks into the fires as police advanced forward in a line in a bid to push back the crowds to send people home.
Before the blaze at St John’s Episcopal Church broke out, church officials said they were thankful that the church wasn’t hit by protests the day before. The fire was set shortly after 11pm.
‘We are fortunate that the damage to the buildings is limited,’ Rev. Rob Fischer, the rector of the church, said earlier on Sunday. He said that that same morning church officials had secured its valuables.
A fire was also set in Lafayette Park, located just in front of the White House, where a protester set a US flag on fire sending smoke into the air as more than 1,000 gathered and raised their fists in solidarity.
The White House plunged into darkness last night as the executive mansion’s lights were turned off in an unusual move.
Donald Trump had returned to a White House under virtual siege after traveling to Florida for the Cape Canaveral space launch on Saturday, and did not appear in public on Sunday.
While Trump remained out of sight, his advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. But the notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.
At least five people have been killed in protest violence after gunfire rang out in Detroit and Indianapolis and in Omaha a 22-year-old black protester was killed in a struggle with a local business owner.
A man was shot dead by law enforcement officers in Louisville on Sunday on the fourth night of unrest in the city in a shooting believed to be linked to the protests.
At least one shot was fired by someone in a large crowd which had gathered in the city, WLKY reported. Louisville’s protests have also focused on the March 13 death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door.
Two Atlanta police officers were fired Sunday after video emerged showing them using excessive force during protests this weekend, including tasing and dragging two college students from a car.
Sporadic violence broke out in Boston following peaceful protests as activists threw bottles at police officers and lit a cruiser on fire.
On Sunday afternoon, a tanker truck drove into demonstrators on the I-35 highway in Minneapolis, which had been closed to traffic. The driver was pulled from the cab and beaten by protesters before police took him into custody. It did not appear any protesters were hit by the truck.
On the West Coast, there were also clashes in Portland, Oregon, where TV footage showed small fires burning as police fired tear gas at protesters who set off fireworks.
In Santa Monica, California, upscale stores were looted along the city’s popular Third Street Promenade before police moved in to make arrests. The vandalism followed a largely peaceful march.
Further south, in the Los Angeles suburb of Long Beach, a group of young men and women smashed windows of a shopping mall and looted stores before they were dispersed before a 6 p.m. curfew.
Thousands of people gathered peacefully on Sunday afternoon for a rally in St. Paul, adjacent to Minneapolis, as state troopers surrounded the state capitol building. About 170 stores in the city have been looted, its mayor told CNN.
Washington state governor Jay Inslee has been among those to send for the National Guard after vandalism and looting in multiple cities, calling the riots ‘illegal and dangerous’ but adding they should not ‘detract from the anger so many feel at the deep injustice laid so ugly and bare by the death of George Floyd’.