States respond with force amid another night of protests
States around the country ratcheted up their responses to demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd on Saturday, using force as some gatherings escalated into violence.
The killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man who died after being pinned to the ground during an arrest by Minneapolis police on Monday, sparked nationwide protests this week as anger over the treatment of black Americans by the country’s law enforcement and justice system continues to intensify.
As Saturday afternoon became Saturday evening, several governors mobilized their national guards, and some of the country’s biggest cities issued curfews for their residents.
Minnesota in particular armored up for an anticipated night of upheaval and unrest.
The Pentagon announced Saturday that it was electing to place select military units on a four-hour recall status should Gov. Tim Walz (D) require additional reinforcements to contain demonstrations in the state.
“The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman have personally spoken with Governor Walz twice in the last 24-hours and expressed the department’s readiness to provide support to local and state authorities as requested,” Department of Defense spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement.
The Minneapolis Police Department tweeted earlier on Saturday that its force would be “tripled.”
The Minnesota National Guard was mobilized late Thursday, after protesters in the Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd was killed set the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct ablaze.
In addition, Walz urged Minnesotans to stay home.
But despite warnings from state officials, bystander footage captured by CNN reporter Omar Jimenez minutes before Minneapolis’s 8 p.m. curfew showed a large crowd of protesters gathered on the streets of the city.
15 minutes to curfew in Minneapolis. pic.twitter.com/EMpdwA0oA8
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) May 31, 2020
Shortly afterward, reports of authorities throwing tear gas at crowds unprovoked began to circulate.
Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske tweeted that the Minnesota State Patrol “just fired tear gas at reporters and photographers at point blank range.”
NBC News correspondent Morgan Chesky was reporting live when an explosive thrown by law enforcement officials went off next to him.
WATCH: @BreakingChesky reports from Minneapolis as police fire flash bangs.
“Law enforcement tonight, not taking any chances.” pic.twitter.com/atuEfFvBpX
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 31, 2020
In Nashville, Tenn., protesters set ablaze the city’s historic city hall, prompting Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) to mobilize the state’s national guard.
BREAKING: they’ve set fire to Nashville’s city hall. It’s just in a window right now pic.twitter.com/DL2A7Kncyj
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) May 31, 2020
At the request of Mayor Cooper, I am authorizing the National Guard to mobilize in response to protests that have now taken a violent, unlawful turn in Nashville.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 31, 2020
In New York City, two New York Police Department (NYPD) vehicles lurched toward a crowd of protesters Saturday evening, with one of the cruisers forcefully pushing its way through the crowd.
Footage of the scene drew ire from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
“NO ONE gets to slam an SUV through a crowd of human beings,” she tweeted. “@NYCMayor these officers need to be brought to justice, not dismissed w/’internal reviews.’”
NYPD officers just drove an SUV into a crowd of human beings. They could‘ve killed them, &we don’t know how many they injured.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 31, 2020
Another tweet from earlier in the afternoon showed an NYPD officer pepper spraying a protester who had his hands up, pulling the protester’s mask off before spraying him.
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) May 31, 2020
Saturday marks the fifth night of protests that have erupted over the killing of Floyd.
Many lawmakers have condemned the violent protests, including President Trump, who has threatened military intervention as a response to the demonstrations.
In an early morning tweet Friday, the president referred to the violent demonstrators as “THUGS,” saying that they were “dishonoring the memory of George Floyd.”
He also used the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which was coined by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967 during the civil rights movement, when the city had a history of aggressive policing. The tweet was flagged by Twitter for glorifying violence.
Angry demonstrators found their way to the White House on Friday night, causing the building to be put on temporary lockdown.
Trump praised the Secret Service for its containment efforts Saturday morning while threatening protesters with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” if they breached the White House’s fence.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) responded, calling Trump’s tweets “gross.”
“To make a reference to vicious dogs is no subtle reminder to African Americans of segregationists who let dogs out on innocent [people],” Bowser said at a press conference.
Trump’s tweets did not stop protesters in the District from once again confronting police and the Secret Service outside the White House on Saturday.
According to reports, protesters knocked down barriers that had been set up on Pennsylvania Avenue.
This is currently happening outside the White House pic.twitter.com/kiG6ozAzur
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) May 30, 2020
Trump later on Saturday responded to the nationwide protests with more measured words during a speech in Florida for the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.
“The death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis was a grave tragedy. It should never have happened,” Trump told reporters after the launch of the space capsule.
“It has filled Americans all over the country with horror, anger and grief,” he added.
“I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protesters, and we hear their pleas. But we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or with peace,” Trump said.
In addition to Minnesota, three other states mobilized their national guards on Saturday.
The governors of Texas, Colorado and Utah all mobilized their respective national guards Saturday afternoon.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) “requested the support of the National Guard to help keep people safe and prevent further destruction, and I have granted that request.”
In a tweet, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) said, “We condemn violence and looting. I have activated the National Guard to help control the escalating situation in downtown Salt Lake City. I once again call on all who are protesting to do so peacefully.”
Both Salt Lake City and Denver also issued curfews for their residents that started at 8 p.m. local time.
Other areas in the U.S. took similar approaches to prevent protests from escalating Saturday night.
Both curfews last until Sunday morning.
Philadelphia also saw protests escalate, with demonstrators setting police cars ablaze. As a result, Mayor Jim Kenney (D) issued a curfew for the city starting at 8 p.m. local time.