The United States has been forced to send in the National Guard into cities all across the country because of prolonged riots over the murder of a black man by police. Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major US cities Sunday after five consecutive nights of unrest over the George Floyd murder and associated police brutality boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country.
President Donald Trump blamed anarchists and far-left activists for the violence, threatening to officially designate the ANTIFA movement as terrorists, while local leaders appealed to citizens to give constructive outlet to their rage without destroying their communities.
Who was George Floyd and why was he killed?
George Floyd, a black man in the United States, recently died due to police brutality at the hands of a white police officer named Derek Chauvin.
Prosecutors wrote that Floyd complied with orders from police officers to leave his vehicle, but did not “voluntarily” get in their squad car. “While standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying and repeating that he could not breathe,” they wrote.
Floyd was soon brought to the ground. One officer held Floyd’s back, another his legs, as Chauvin placed his left on Floyd’s neck. Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe,” “Mama,” and “please,” as the minutes went by.
The medical examiner noted Mr Floyd had underlying heart conditions and the combination of these, “potential intoxicants in his system” and being restrained by the officers “likely contributed to his death”.
The report says Mr Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds – almost three minutes of which was after Mr Floyd became non-responsive.
Nearly two minutes before he removed his knee the other officers checked Mr Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and were unable to find one. He was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in an ambulance and pronounced dead around an hour later.
Unrest over George Floyd murder brings life in cities to a halt
Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, said her city was sharply limiting access to its central business district after violent protests. She reflected the exasperation of many officials and ordinary residents over the turn from peaceful protest to explosive violence.
She told CNN she was “hurt and angry at those who decided to try to hijack this moment and use it as an opportunity to wreak havoc, to loot and to destroy. You should be ashamed of yourselves. What you have done is to dishonor yourself, your family and our city.”
The shocking videotaped death Monday of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited a nationwide wave of outrage over law enforcement’s repeated use of lethal force against unarmed African Americans.
From Seattle to New York, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding tougher murder charges and more arrests over the death of Floyd, who stopped breathing after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder; three other officers with him have been fired but for now face no charges.
National Guard brought in to combat unrest over George Floyd murder
Governor Tim Walz mobilized all of Minnesota’s National Guard troops — the state guard’s biggest mobilization ever — to help restore order. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to clear streets of curfew violators Saturday night in Minneapolis, and National Guard troops protected the state capitol in St. Paul.
Walz extended a curfew for a third night Sunday and praised police and guardsmen for holding down violence, saying, “They did so in a professional manner. They did so without a single loss of life and minimal property damage.”
“Congratulations to our National Guard for the great job they did immediately upon arriving in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last night,” Trump said in a tweet adding that they “should be used in other States before it is too late!” In another tweet he praised the National Guard for playing “no games.”
The Department of Defense said that around 5,000 National Guard troops had been mobilized in 15 states as well as the capital Washington with another 2,000 on standby.
The widespread resort to uniformed National Guards units is rare, and it evoked disturbing memories of the rioting in US cities in 1967 and 1968 in a turbulent time of protest over racial and economic disparities.
Curfew imposed in cities but clashes continue
Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta were among two dozen cities ordering people to stay indoors overnight but police and protesters still clashed in numerous cities.
In Washington, protesters faced off with secret service agents outside the White House for a second straight night as Trump faces the most serious civil unrest of his presidency, in the middle of the historic coronavirus pandemic.
Eleven Washington police officers were injured, a spokesman said Sunday, including one who suffered a fractured leg.
Multiple arrests were reported by US media in Minneapolis, Seattle and New York as rallies continued through the night. Officers in Los Angeles fired rubber bullets and swung batons during a testy standoff with demonstrators who set fire to a police car.
Trump playing blame game as unrest over George Floyd murder escalates
Trump blamed the extreme left for the violence, saying he planned to designate a group known as Antifa as a terrorist organization.
But Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that Trump, who has often urged police to use tough tactics, was not helping matters.
“We are beyond a tipping point in this country, and his rhetoric only enflames that,” she said on CBS. “And he should just sometimes stop talking.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned the violence, but said on Sunday that US citizens had every right to demonstrate.
“Protesting such brutality is right and necessary,” he said in a late-night statement. “But burning down communities and needless destruction is not.”
Movement spreading across international borders
Peaceful protests occurred too, including in Toronto as the movement spread beyond America’s borders.
Demonstrators nationwide chanted slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd was heard saying repeatedly in his final moments, as he lay, handcuffed, on the ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
“We’re not turning the cheek anymore. Black lives matter,” said makeup artist Melissa Mock, who joined several thousand in a daytime protest in Miami.
Earlier, people congregated and chanted peacefully in Minneapolis, carrying brooms to help clean up damaged shops and streets.
Some placed flowers in front of the shop where Floyd was arrested on Monday.
#BlackLivesMatter trending amid unrest over George Floyd murder
In a related development, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has started trending on social media, especially on micro-blogging site twitter.
Social media platform Twitter turned its profile picture black and also added the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to its main account.
Meanwhile the streaming giant Netflix also moved to show its solidarity with the black community of America. “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter,” the streaming giant wrote on Twitter Saturday afternoon. “We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.”
The movement is rapidly gaining national and international support. Many celebrities have offered support via social media and by joining the demonstrations in various cities.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk