Protesters took to the streets in cities across the United States for a sixth night Sunday to vent their anger over the death of George Floyd and call for change, raising the prospect of renewed confrontations with police seeking to enforce overnight curfews.
Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Detroit and Philadelphia are among the nearly 40 cities that have imposed orders banning marchers from the streets after dark. The governors of Texas and Virginia have imposed states of emergency in their states.
Some big city mayors, such as San Francisco’s London Breed, say their curfews are indefinite.
About 5,000 National Guard members have been called out in a number of places and another 2,000 are standing by.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, visited the site of one of the protests Sunday and spoke with African Americans in Wilmington, in his home state of Delaware. He asked the protesters not to turn to violence.
“We are a nation in pain right now, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. As President, I will help lead this conversation,” Biden tweeted.
He also criticized the violence in a separate social media statement, saying: “Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not.”
Attorney General William Barr called for an end to the violence in his own statement Sunday.
“The continued violence and destruction of property endangers the lives and livelihoods of others, and interferes with the rights of peaceful protestors, as well as all other citizens,” he said.
“It also undercuts the urgent work that needs to be done – through constructive engagement between affected communities and law enforcement leaders – to address legitimate grievances. Preventing reconciliation and driving us apart is the goal of these radical groups, and we cannot let them succeed.”
In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fired two police officers and put three others on desk duty until accusations of excessive use of force Saturday night could be reviewed.
In the nation’s capital, about 1,000 protesters gathered in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House on Sunday. The crowd had marched from Howard University and focused their anger on police, shouting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered an overnight curfew Sunday night into Monday morning for the city.
Protests Friday night and Saturday night turned violent in the capital city, including across the street from the White House.
The president has blamed most of the violence on “Antifa and other radical left-wing groups,” and offered federal military assistance to Minnesota, where the protests began.
Over the last five nights, fires, vandalism, looting and violence – much of it aimed at police — have disrupted major cities across the country. The marchers, black and white, say they are protesting not just harsh police treatment of black men and women, but also systemic racism in the United States.
The demonstrations began Tuesday in Minneapolis, where George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after being held handcuffed, face down, with a police officer’s knee on the back of his neck for more than eight minutes.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter four days later. He and three other officers who were present and did not intervene were fired Tuesday. Chauvin is scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Protesters in Minneapolis and across the country have taken up the familiar chant “No Justice, No Peace.’ Others echoed Floyd’s “I can’t breathe.”
A black protester in Minneapolis told CNN all he wants is his basic human rights.
“I want to be able to go in a white neighborhood and feel safe. I want to be able, when a cop is driving behind me, I don’t have to clench, and be safe. I want to be able to just be free and not have to think about every step I take.”
Nearly 1,400 people had been arrested across the country, according to an Associated Press tally Saturday. That total did not include arrests overnight Saturday and on Sunday.
Numerous Minneapolis businesses suffered extensive property damage Friday as protesters randomly looted stores in a neighborhood near the site where Floyd died. Somali-American business owner Ahmed Siyad Shafi’i told VOA that vandals attacked all his of his stores overnight.
“They broke the glass, the doors, the windows,” he said via Skype, “and take whatever they can take.” Shafi’i, the owner of a restaurant and clothing store in South Minneapolis, called it “unacceptable” for anyone to destroy personal property and suggested peaceful protests.