Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

US cities witness anarchy as protests for justice descend into violence

Marches over police custody death of George Floyd marred by a sixth night of arson, vandalism and looting

The protests that began in Minneapolis on Monday to demand justice for George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody, raged on for a sixth night on Sunday after spreading across US cities like wildfire.

The National Guard was deployed in 12 states over the weekend to help quell demonstrations that swiftly escalated into looting, arson and vandalism.

People robbed stores in broad daylight in Philadelphia and Santa Monica, California, and a semitruck drove into a massive crowd of people that took over some of a highway in Minneapolis.

It has been seven days since the video of police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck emerged, and protesters mobilised to demand justice.

Despite peaceful starts, many of the marches descended into chaos, with more than a dozen cities enacting curfews to stem the violence, including Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden called for calm, saying on Saturday: “Protesting such brutality is right and necessary...Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”

In Minneapolis, tensions peaked as rioters stormed and set alight a police precinct; in Salt Lake City, Utah, a white man brought a hunting bow to the protest, with witnesses saying he attempted to use it on protesters. In Oakland, California, a Federal Protective Service officer was shot dead; in Atlanta, Georgia, CNN headquarters were surrounded by angry mobs; in Louisville, Kentucky, the same city where nurse Breonna Taylor was shot dead in her bed by police in March, seven were shot.

US protests and black American deaths
US protests and black American deaths

Minnesota governor Tim Walz said “white supremacists and cartels” were mixing in with demonstrators in the state to ignite violence, but Trump blamed the riots on “antifa” - a left wing, anti fascist movement.

“Radical-left criminals, thugs and others all throughout our country and throughout the world will not be allowed to set communities ablaze,” he said on Saturday, threatening to set “vicious dogs” on White House protesters.

On the West Coast, the National Guard was called to Los Angeles on Saturday after four days of marches culminated in police vehicles burning, and shops - including businesses owned by African Americans - being looted.

What started off as a peaceful, 10,000 person-strong demonstration at midday soon escalated as groups splintered off.

“I’m here because I want to protest peacefully,” said Miles, a 19-year-old who was attending the protest with his brother and father. “But I’m worried about the police. I’m worried if I get arrested I’ll be treated badly because I’m black.”

At one intersection, on Beverly and Hayworth, a woman dressed in a khaki print jumpsuit cajoled the crowd into kneeling for a two minute silence.

Soon after, police opened fire with rubber bullets and flash bombs, scattering many of the protesters, and injuring a small number. One man lost a tooth after he was hit in the mouth by a rubber missile, another was bleeding heavily from his cheek after being hit in the face.

Officers formed blockades in the Fairfax area, where around a dozen police cars had been destroyed and some set on fire, in an attempt to control the crowds.

On Rosewood Avenue and Fairfax, two small fires blazed as a shop alarm blared.

One individual poured gasoline on the flames, while others added chairs, wood and placards to the rapidly expanding inferno, and a thick, dark plume of smoke filled the early evening sky.

Kiera, an African American woman, stood on the street, her ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign dangling from her hand as she watched a group of 10 young men hoist up the metal shutters of a trainers store called Flight Club.

“That’s my store,” she said, as she watched the men kick and ram the windows until the glass shattered.

“You’re stealing from black people,” one of her co-workers yelled.

Hordes of people ran into the store and ransacked the shelves clean, running off into the dusk with their stolen wares.

Soon looting was unfolding across the Beverly Hills and Fairfax districts, with some rioters even being caught on camera by television crews.

On Rodeo Drive, designer shops were daubed in graffiti; an Adidas store was set on fire on Melrose Avenue; while a nearby small falafel store was raided, looters stealing the cash register and breaking it open outside.

For miles around, cars screeched alongside jewelry outlets, clothes shops and even a cookie shop, the passengers jumping out to raid whatever they could find.

As the looting, violence and vandalism continued into the early hours of Sunday morning, the National Guard arrived, a force not seen on the streets of LA since the 1992 riots which erupted after the police officers who beat Rodney King – a black man – were found not guilty of brutality.

“This is not the solution,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said as he stood next to broken glass from a Nordstrom department store. “Policing doesn’t fix these kinds of societal problems. I need all of LA to step up right now and be part of the solution.

Updated: June 1, 2020 04:20 AM

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