This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Violent protests erupted across the U.S. on Thursday, as the death of George Floyd after a police officer knelt on his neck while Floyd screamed that he couldn’t breathe became a national issue.
The epicenter of the protests remained the police station in Minneapolis where the police officers involved in Floyd’s death were based, and on Thursday night, moments after officials gave the order to abandon the building, protesters broke in and set it on fire.
Just after 10 p.m. on Thursday, officials made the decision to abandon 3rd Precinct police headquarters after sustained attacks by protesters. Moments later, the protesters cheered as the building was engulfed in flames.
Despite the presence of the National Guard, which had been deployed earlier in the day on the orders of Gov. Tim Walz, firefighters were unable to deal with 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.
Thursday marked the straight third night of violent protests in Minneapolis sparked by Floyd’s death on Monday, after a widely-seen video circulated on social media. The video, captured by a passer-by, shows Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, kneeling on Floyd’s neck after Floyd had been handcuffed. Floyd can be seen struggling for air and telling the officer he can’t breathe. He then became unresponsive and was pronounced dead in hospital an hour later.
Thursday night saw protesters once again set fire to buildings and loot stores across the city. Many businesses 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 in a position to charge 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.”
Chaotic and violent protests took place across the U.S. on Thursday as protesters used the horrific death of Floyd to remember the deaths of other black citizens, 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.
Seven people were shot and one person is in critical condition after protests descended into violence in the city. Protesters were also demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead by officers in March at her home. 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.
There were chaotic scenes in Denver when a car appeared to hit a protester. A video of the incident was posted on Twitter. 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 summoned during protests in Manhattan. One woman pulled a switchblade on an office in Union Square while another protester tried to take a gun from a police officer’s holster.
Memphis: 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.
A national response
The escalating protests brought attracted the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump who tweeted criticism of Mayor Jacob Frey while telling 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)