Protests erupted across the U.S. on Thursday night, as the police killing of George Floyd, a black man, sparked national outrage following two other high-profile killings of black Americans in recent months.
Floyd died Monday evening after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for about eight minutes as he screamed that he couldn’t breathe, and several other officers stood by and crowds gathered.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in Minneapolis, New York, Memphis and Louisville, where protesters also decried the police killing of Breonna Taylor in that Kentucky city in March. But the epicenter of the Thursday night protests — the third consecutive night since Floyd's death — remained the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved were based.
Just after 10 p.m., officials abandoned the 3rd Precinct police headquarters after sustained attacks by protesters. Moments later, protesters broke in and set it on fire.
Firefighters were unable to put out the blaze as protesters continued to surround the station, throwing projectiles and, according to local media reports, firing guns into the building.
The City of Minneapolis tweeted just before midnight about “unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the 3rd Precinct have been cut and other explosive materials are in the building.”
By 4 a.m. on Friday, as the protests appeared to be winding down, police and fire crews finally returned to the police station. But police, many in riot gear, immediately attacked the remaining protesters, firing pepper spray and using batons to disperse crowds, according to footage captured by CNN.
Minneapolis has taken to the streets every night since a video of Floyd's death on Monday circulated on social media. The video, captured by a bystander, shows Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes after the man had been handcuffed. Floyd can be seen struggling for air and telling the officer he can’t breathe. He then became unresponsive and was declared dead in the hospital.
Some protesters set fire to buildings and looted stores across the city in previous nights, but Thursday saw unprecedented unrest across the country. In Minneapolis, many businesses have boarded up their windows to prevent looting, and Target closed dozens of stores in the city. The violence also spilled over into the twin city of St. Paul, where riot police clashed with protesters and hundreds of businesses were looted.
Thursday’s protests were fueled by prosecutors’ announcement earlier in the day that they were not yet charging Chauvin. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told a press conference that despite the horrific video of Floyd’s death, “there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.”
Protesters in other cities across the U.S. called for justice in the killings of other black Americans, including Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed by police officers in her home in March, and Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old who was shot dead in Georgia in February while out jogging. In many places, the demonstrations were marked by violence.
Seven people were shot and one person is in critical condition after protests demanding justice for Floyd and Taylor descended into violence in the Kentucky city. It is still unclear who was shot or who fired the weapons, but police said early Friday that none of its officers fired their weapons or were injured.
An unconfirmed video posted to Twitter appears to show a car hitting a protester, and elsewhere in the city, protesters and lawmakers had to take shelter in the capitol building after shots were fired outside.
New York City
More than 40 people were arrested or given a summons during protests in Manhattan. One woman pulled a switchblade on an officer in Union Square while another protester tried to take a gun from a police officer’s holster.
Dozens of protesters marched in downtown Memphis for a second night, in a demonstration organized by well-known Memphis activists Devante Hill and Frank Gotti. Police in riot gear were deployed but no major clashes took place, and the protesters dispersed by 1 a.m.
President Donald Trump tweeted criticism of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey while telling Minnesota Governor Tim Walz he had the full support of the military if needed.
“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump added, a threat that prompted Twitter to censor his tweet.
Frey responded by telling reporters at a press conference that “weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else, during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we're going to get through this.”
Frey, who has been calling for Chauvin to be charged, called Thursday night’s riots “unacceptable.”
In an early hours press conference on Friday, Frey said that while he understands the protesters’ “pain and anger,” he added that “what we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights is unacceptable. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food. They are essential to our community.”
Cover: Protestors demonstrate outside of a burning Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)