Thousands ignore Minneapolis curfew as US protests spread
Minneapolis: Thousands of protesters ignored a curfew and vows of a forceful police response to take to the Minneapolis streets for a fourth straight night, as the anger stoked by the death of George Floyd in police custody spread to more cities across the US.
The Pentagon on Saturday ordered the Army to put military police units on alert to head to the city on short notice at President Donald Trump’s request, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders who did not want their names used because they were not authorised to discuss the preparations. The rare step came as the violence spread to other cities: a man shot dead in Detroit, police cars battered in Atlanta and skirmishes with police in New York City.
Criminal charges filed Friday morning against the white officer who held his knee for nearly nine minutes on the neck of Floyd, a black man, did nothing to stem the anger. Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Minneapolis police said shots had been fired at law enforcement officers during the protests but no one was injured.
As the night dragged on, fires erupted across the city’s south side, including at a Japanese restaurant, a Wells Fargo bank and an Office Depot. Many burned for hours, with firefighters again delayed in reaching them because areas weren’t secure.
Shortly before midnight, scores of officers on foot and in vehicles moved in to curb the violence, one day after city and state leaders faced blowback for their handling of the crisis. On Thursday, protesters had torched a police station soon after it was abandoned by police and went on to burn or vandalise dozens of businesses.
The new round of unrest came despite Gov. Tim Walz vowing early in the day to show a more forceful response by the state than the one Thursday run by Minneapolis city leaders. But by early Saturday morning, Walz was acknowledging he didn’t have enough manpower, even with some 500 Guard soldiers.
“We do not have the numbers,” Walz said. “We cannot arrest people when we are trying to hold ground.”
Walz said he was moving quickly to mobilise more than 1,000 more Guard members, for a total of 1,700, and was considering the potential offer of federal military police. But he warned that even that might not be enough, saying he expected another difficult night Saturday.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association urged Walz to accept any help.
Not all the protests were violent. Downtown, thousands of demonstrators encircled a barricaded police station after the 8 pm. Friday curfew. “Prosecute the police!” some chanted, and “Say his name: George Floyd!” Some protesters sprayed graffiti on buildings.
Anger filled the streets of Minneapolis.
Ben Hubert, a 26-year-old local resident, said he wasn’t surprised people were breaking curfew and setting fires.
“I’m outraged,” he said of the Floyd case. “But I’m also sad. The injustice has been going on for so long. It’s been swelling for years.”
Chauvin was also was accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd, who was black, had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.
Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder. – AP