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Posts tagged ‘Protests’

Nation’s streets calmest in days, protests largely peaceful

June 03, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Protests were largely peaceful and the nation’s streets were calmer than they have been in days since the killing of George Floyd set off sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality and injustice against African Americans.

An earlier curfew and efforts by protesters to contain the violence prevented more widespread damage to businesses in New York City overnight. As of Wednesday morning, arrests grew to more than 9,000 nationwide since the unrest began in response to Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis.

There was a marked quiet compared with the unrest of the past few nights, which included fires and shootings in some cities. Many cities intensified their curfews, with authorities in Washington also ordering people off streets before sundown.

A block away from the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed following a crackdown a day earlier when officers on foot and horseback aggressively drove peaceful protesters away from Lafayette Park, clearing the way for President Donald Trump to do a photo op at nearby St. John’s Church. Tuesday’s protesters faced law enforcement personnel who stood behind a black chain-link fence put up overnight to block access to the park.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.” Pastors at the church prayed with demonstrators and handed out water bottles. The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the people were peaceful, even polite. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”

Pope Francis called for national reconciliation and peace, saying he has ‘’witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest’’ in the United States in recent days. “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,’’ the pope said during his weekly Wednesday audience, held in the presence of bishops due to coronavirus restrictions on gatherings.

Trump, meanwhile, amplified his hard-line calls from Monday, when he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it. “NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

Thousands of people remained in the streets of New York City Tuesday night, undeterred by an 8 p.m. curfew, though most streets were clear by early Wednesday. Midtown Manhattan was pocked with battered storefronts after Monday’s protests.

Protests also passed across the U.S., including in Los Angeles, Miami, St. Paul, Minnesota, Columbia, South Carolina and Houston, where the police chief talked to peaceful demonstrators, vowing reforms.

“God as my witness, change is coming,” Art Acevedo said. “And we’re going to do it the right way.” More than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence. Not in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he does not want the Guard, despite an offer from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Tuesday, Cuomo called what happened in the city Monday night “a disgrace.” “The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany. He said his fellow Democrat underestimated the problem, and the nation’s largest police force was not deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.

Tuesday marked the eighth straight night of protests that began after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while the handcuffed black man called out that he couldn’t breathe. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and charged with murder.

The mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, said she wants the world to know that her little girl lost a good father. “I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took,” Roxie Washington said during a Minneapolis news conference, her daughter at her side. “I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good.”

Some protesters framed the burgeoning movement as a necessity after seemingly incessant killings by police. “It feels like it’s just been an endless cascade of hashtags of black people dying, and it feels like nothing’s really being done by our political leaders to actually enact real change,” said Christine Ohenzuwa, 19, who attended a peaceful protest at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul. “There’s always going to be a breaking point. I think right now, we’re seeing the breaking point around the country.”

“I live in this state. It’s really painful to see what’s going on, but it’s also really important to understand that it’s connected to a system of racial violence,” she said. Meanwhile, governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats alike, rejected Trump’s threat to send in the military, with some saying troops would be unnecessary and others questioning whether the government has such authority and warning that such a step would be dangerous.

Such use of the military would mark a stunning federal intervention rarely seen in modern American history. A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president is not rushing to deploy the military and that his goal was to pressure governors to deploy more National Guard members.

Nine states and the District of Columbia held presidential primaries on Tuesday, testing the nation’s ability to run elections while balancing a pandemic and sweeping social unrest. Joe Biden won hundreds more delegates, nearly enough to formally secure the Democratic presidential nomination.

Also Tuesday, Minnesota opened an investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a pattern of discrimination against minorities.

Sullivan reported from Minneapolis. Associated Press journalists across the U.S. contributed to this report.

Protests, Louisville police chief fired after fatal shooting

June 02, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Riot police firing tear gas scattered a protest crowd from a downtown Louisville square Monday night, hours after the firing of the city’s police chief in the uproar over the early morning shooting death of a popular restaurant owner by security forces.

David McAtee, the owner of a barbecue spot who was known for offering meals to police officers, died while police and National Guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew early Monday amid waves of protests over a previous police shooting in Kentucky’s largest city. Police said they were responding to gunfire from a crowd.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the firing of Police Chief Steve Conrad at a news conference Monday. He said officers involved in the shooting failed to activate body cameras at the chaotic scene. Authorities had sought footage for their investigation, after Kentucky’s governor demanded the release of police video.

“This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated,” Fischer said. “Accordingly, I have relieved Steve Conrad of his duties as chief of Louisville Metro Police Department.” Gov. Andy Beshear later called the lack of body camera footage unacceptable.

“This is the entire reason that we have those cameras,” the Democratic governor said at the state Capitol in Frankfort. Beshear authorized state police to independently investigate, promising the probe will be conducted in an “honest and transparent way that will not take months.”

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman announced that federal authorities will be part of the investigation. The governor said he had counted on body camera footage to help determine “the truth in a way that spoke for itself, at a time when trust is difficult and people deserve to be able to see and evaluate.”

Late Monday afternoon, a huge group stretching several city blocks marched peacefully from downtown Louisville to the spot where McAtee was shot. Some motorists honked horns and raised fists in solidarity.

Hundreds of protesters regrouped later Monday night at downtown Jefferson Square and riot police standing shoulder to shoulder advanced amid burts of fired tear gas, dispersing the crowd. Military-style vehicles could later be seen occupying the emptied-out square.

The shakeup at the top of the city’s police department came a month earlier than expected. Conrad had previously announced his resignation, which was to take effect at the end of June. Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder will step in immediately as chief, Fischer said.

The mayor also said the city’s curfew was being extended until June 8. Police did retrieve video from crime center cameras that showed how the shooting unfolded, Schroeder said. Two Louisville officers and two Guard soldiers returned fire, he said. The two officers violated policy by not wearing or activating body cameras, Schroeder said, adding they have been placed on administrative leave.

McAtee, whose YaYa’s BBQ Shack is near where the shooting occurred, was mourned by hundreds. Christopher 2X, an anti-violence activist and executive director of the group Game Changers, said McAtee was well-liked.

“I’ve never known him to be aggressive in any kind of way,” he said. Schroeder agreed that McAtee was friendly to police officers. “Over the years he’s been a good friend to the police officers … frequently making sure our officers had a good meal on their shifts,” he said.

Before his dismissal, Conrad confirmed the shooting happened around 12:15 a.m. Monday outside a food market on West Broadway, where police and the National Guard had been called to break up a group of curfew violators.

Someone fired a shot at law enforcement officials, and both soldiers and officers returned fire, he said. Several “persons of interest” were being interviewed, he said. News outlets showed video taken by someone in a car parked at a gas station. It recorded the sound of bullets being fired as groups of police and Guard soldiers crouched behind cars.

Kris Smith said he was at a restaurant — “just outside having a good time, having drinks, eating barbecue” — when the soldiers arrived. “As soon as I walk to my car they jump out with the sticks, the police jump out with their sticks and their shields and stuff on,” Smith said. “It looked like something out of a movie. It looked like a freaking war zone.”

He said he heard a loud noise, then gunfire minutes later. Smith, who is black, said the group had nothing to do with the protests. Protesters have been demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed in her home in Louisville in March. The 26-year-old EMT was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door as they attempted to enforce a search warrant. No drugs were found in the home.

After Taylor’s death, the mayor said Louisville police would be required to wear body cameras.

Associated Press contributors include Claire Galofaro and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville. Tulp reported from Atlanta.

Unrest overshadows peaceful US protests for another night

June 01, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across America again Sunday, with peaceful demonstrations against police killings of black people overshadowed by unrest that ravaged cities from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and flared near the White House.

City and state officials deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers, enacted strict curfews and shut down mass transit systems to slow protesters’ movements, but that did little to stop parts of many cities from again erupting into mayhem.

Protesters in Philadelphia hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, officials said, while thieves in more than 20 California cities smashed their way into businesses and ran off with as much as they could carry — boxes of sneakers, armloads of clothes, and cellphones, TVs and other electronics.

In Minneapolis, a tanker truck driver drove into a massive crowd of demonstrators nearly a week after the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as an officer pressed a knee into his neck. No protesters appeared to be injured, and the driver was arrested.

Tensions spiked outside the White House, the scene of three days of demonstrations, where police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park. The crowd ran away and piled up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a nearby street. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the blaze.

A building in the park with bathrooms and a maintenance office went up in flames and people broke into banks and jewelry stores. As demonstrations persisted past curfew, Washington police said they were responding to multiple fires set around the capital.

The entire Washington, D.C., National Guard — roughly 1,700 soldiers — was called in to help control the protests, according to two Defense Department officials who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

As the protests grew, President Donald Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton who called for “overwhelming force” against violent demonstrators. At least 4,100 people have been arrested over days of protests, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press. Arrests ranged from looting and blocking highways to breaking curfew.

In Salt Lake City, an activist leader condemned the destruction of property but said broken buildings shouldn’t be mourned on the same level as black men like Floyd. “Maybe this country will get the memo that we are sick of police murdering unarmed black men,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah. “Maybe the next time a white police officer decides to pull the trigger, he will picture cities burning.”

Yet thousands still marched peacefully in Phoenix, Albuquerque and other cities, with some calling for an end to the fires, vandalism and theft, saying it weakened calls for justice and reform. “They keep killing our people,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who marched with her mother and several hundred others in a peaceful protest through downtown Boston. “I’m so sick and tired of it.”

But as night fell that demonstration also descended into violence, with some protesters throwing rocks, bricks and glass bottles at officers and lighting a police vehicle on fire. In downtown Atlanta, authorities fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said two officers had been fired and three placed on desk duty after video showed police surrounding a car Saturday, then pulling a woman out of the passenger seat and appearing to use a stun gun on a man who was driving. Police Chief Erika Shields called it “really shocking to watch.”

In downtown Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters in a street, knocking two people to the ground. The pair got up and ran onto the sidewalk. Nearby in Santa Monica, not far from a peaceful demonstration, a group broke into a Gap and a Vans sneaker store, where people walked out with boxes of shoes. Others shattered the windows of an REI outdoor supply store and snatched folding chairs, a bike and backpacks. A fire broke out at a restaurant across the street.

About 30 miles (48 kilometers) south, as hundreds of protesters gathered in Long Beach, scores of thieves swarmed into nearby outlet stores. A steady stream emerged from a Forever 21 store carrying armloads of clothing. Some hauled it away in garbage bags, and a few stopped outside to change into stolen items.

In Minneapolis, the officer who pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding the other three officers at the scene be prosecuted. All four were fired.

“We’re not done,” said Darnella Wade, an organizer for Black Lives Matter in neighboring St. Paul, where thousands gathered peacefully in front of the state Capitol as state patrolmen and National Guard soldiers lined up in front of about a dozen military-style armored vehicles. “They sent us the military, and we only asked them for arrests.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz brought in thousands of National Guard soldiers on Saturday to help quell violence that had damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in Minneapolis over days of protests. That appeared to help minimize unrest both Saturday and Sunday.

Disgust over generations of racism in a country founded by slaveholders combined with a string of recent racially charged killings to stoke the anger. Adding to that was angst from months of lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt communities of color, not only in terms of infections but in job losses and economic stress.

The droves of people congregating for demonstrations threatened to trigger new outbreaks, a fact overshadowed by the boiling tensions. The scale of the coast-to-coast protests rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras.

Curfews were imposed in major cities around the U.S., including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. About 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C.

In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence this weekend, adding to deaths reported in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days. In tweets Sunday, Trump blamed anarchists and the media for fueling violence. Attorney General William Barr pointed a finger at “far left extremist” groups. Police chiefs and politicians accused outsiders of coming in and causing the problems.

At the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd was killed, people gathered with brooms and flowers, saying it was important to protect what they called a “sacred space.” Among in Minneapolis was Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, whose killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, set off unrest in 2014.

“I understand what this family is feeling. I understand what this community is feeling,” he said.

Morrison and Sullivan reported from Minneapolis. Associated Press journalists across the U.S. contributed to this report.

Thousands ignore Minneapolis curfew as U.S. protests spread

May 30, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Thousands of protesters ignored a curfew and vows of a forceful police response to take to the Minneapolis streets for a fourth straight night, as the anger stoked by the police killing of George Floyd spread to more cities across the U.S.

The Pentagon on Saturday ordered the Army to put military police units on alert to head to the city on short notice at President Donald Trump’s request, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders who did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations. The rare step came as the violence spread to other cities: a man shot dead in Detroit, police cars battered in Atlanta and skirmishes with police in New York City.

Criminal charges filed Friday morning against the white officer who held his knee for nearly nine minutes on the neck of Floyd, a black man, did nothing to stem the anger. Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Minneapolis police said shots had been fired at law enforcement officers during the protests but no one was injured. As the night dragged on, fires erupted across the city’s south side, including at a Japanese restaurant, a Wells Fargo bank and an Office Depot. Many burned for hours, with firefighters again delayed in reaching them because areas weren’t secure.

Shortly before midnight, scores of officers on foot and in vehicles moved in to curb the violence, one day after city and state leaders faced blowback for their handling of the crisis. On Thursday, protesters had torched a police station soon after it was abandoned by police and went on to burn or vandalize dozens of businesses.

The new round of unrest came despite Gov. Tim Walz vowing early in the day to show a more forceful response by the state than the one Thursday run by Minneapolis city leaders. But by early Saturday morning, Walz was acknowledging he didn’t have enough manpower, even with some 500 Guard soldiers.

“We do not have the numbers,” Walz said. “We cannot arrest people when we are trying to hold ground.” Walz said he was moving quickly to mobilize more than 1,000 more Guard members, for a total of 1,700, and was considering the potential offer of federal military police. But he warned that even that might not be enough, saying he expected another difficult night Saturday.

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association urged Walz to accept any help. “You need more resources,” the group said in a tweet. “Law enforcement needs leadership.” Not all the protests were violent. Downtown, thousands of demonstrators encircled a barricaded police station after the 8 p.m. Friday curfew. “Prosecute the police!” some chanted, and “Say his name: George Floyd!” Some protesters sprayed graffiti on buildings.

Anger filled the streets of Minneapolis. Ben Hubert, a 26-year-old local resident, said he wasn’t surprised people were breaking curfew and setting fires. “I’m outraged,” he said of the Floyd case. “But I’m also sad. The injustice has been going on for so long. It’s been swelling for years.”

Chauvin was also was accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd, who was black, had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.

Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder. An attorney for Floyd’s family welcomed the arrest but said he expected a more serious murder charge and wants the other officers arrested, too.

Prosecutor Mike Freeman said more charges were possible, but authorities “felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator.” Protests nationwide have been fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death and years of police violence against African Americans. Protesters smashed windows at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, set a police car on fire and struck officers with bottles. Large demonstrations in New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., and dozens of other cities ranged from people peacefully blocking roads to repeated clashes with police.

“You are disgracing our city,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told protesters. “You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.” Police were trying to put Floyd in a squad car Monday when he stiffened and fell to the ground, saying he was claustrophobic, a criminal complaint said. Chauvin and Officer Tou Thoa arrived and tried several times to get the struggling Floyd into the car.

Chauvin eventually pulled Floyd out of the car, and the handcuffed Floyd went to the ground face down. Officer J.K. Kueng held Floyd’s back and Officer Thomas Lane held his legs while Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s head and neck area, the complaint said.

When Lane asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side, Chauvin said, “No, staying put is where we got him.” Lane said he was “worried about excited delirium or whatever.” An autopsy said the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. It revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death.

There were no other details about intoxicants, and toxicology results can take weeks. In the 911 call that drew police, the caller describes the man suspected of paying with counterfeit money as “awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself.”

After Floyd apparently stopped breathing, Lane again said he wanted to roll Floyd onto his side. Kueng checked for a pulse and said he could not find one, according to the complaint. Chauvin’s attorney had no comment when reached by The Associated Press.

The prosecutor highlighted the “extraordinary speed” in charging the case four days after Floyd’s death and defended himself against questions about why it did not happen sooner. Freeman said his office needed time to gather evidence, including what he called the “horrible” video recorded by a bystander.

Trump said Friday that he’d spoken to Floyd’s family and “expressed my sorrow.” He called video of the arrest “just a horrible thing to witness and to watch. It certainly looked like there was no excuse for it.”

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Floyd’s family, asked to take custody of Floyd’s body for an independent autopsy. The doctor who will do the autopsy is Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner of New York City, who was hired to do an autopsy for Eric Garner, a black man who died in 2014 after New York police placed him in a chokehold and he pleaded that he could not breathe.

State and federal authorities also are investigating Floyd’s death.

Associated Press writers Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski, and Doug Glass in Minneapolis, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, Bernard Condon in New York, and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.

George Floyd protesters set Minneapolis police station afire

May 29, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Cheering protesters torched a Minneapolis police station Thursday that the department was forced to abandon as three days of violent protests spread to nearby St. Paul and angry demonstrations flared across the U.S over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

A police spokesman confirmed late Thursday that staff had evacuated the 3rd Precinct station, the focus of many of the protests, “in the interest of the safety of our personnel” shortly after 10 p.m. Livestream video showed the protesters entering the building, where fire alarms blared and sprinklers ran as blazes were set.

Protesters could be seen setting fire to a Minneapolis Police Department jacket and cheering. Late Thursday, President Donald Trump blasted the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he said on Twitter.

Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd’s death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video. On the video, Floyd can be seen pleading as Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving. The 3rd Precinct covers the portion of south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz earlier Thursday activated the National Guard at the Minneapolis mayor’s request, but it wasn’t immediately clear when and where the Guard was being deployed, and none could be seen during protests in Minneapolis or St. Paul. The Guard tweeted minutes after the precinct burned that it had activated more than 500 soldiers across the metro area.

The Guard said a “key objective” was to make sure fire departments could respond to calls, and said in a follow-up tweet it was “here with the Minneapolis Fire Department” to assist. But no move was made to put out the 3rd Precinct fire. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said fire crews could not safely respond to fires at the precinct station and some surrounding buildings.

Earlier Thursday, dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities boarded up their windows and doors in an effort to prevent looting, with Minneapolis-based Target announcing it was temporarily closing two dozen area stores. Minneapolis shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through Sunday out of safety concerns.

In St. Paul, clouds of smoke hung in the air as police armed with batons and wearing gas masks and body armor kept a watchful eye on protesters along one of the city’s main commercial corridors, where firefighters also sprayed water onto a series of small fires. At one point, officers stood in line in front of a Target, trying to keep out looters, who were also smashing windows of other businesses.

Hundreds of demonstrators returned Thursday to the Minneapolis neighborhood at the center of the violence, where the nighttime scene veered between an angry protest and a street party. At one point, a band playing in a parking lot across from the 3rd Precinct broke into a punk version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.” Nearby, demonstrators carried clothing mannequins from a looted Target and threw them onto a burning car. Later, a building fire erupted nearby.

But elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets calling for justice. Floyd’s death has deeply shaken Minneapolis and sparked protests in cities across the U.S. Local leaders have repeatedly urged demonstrators to avoid violence.

“Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest. Please keep the focus on George Floyd, on advancing our movement and on preventing this from ever happening again,” tweeted St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who is black.

Erika Atson, 20, was among thousands of people who gathered outside government offices in downtown Minneapolis, where organizers had called a peaceful protest. Many protesters wore masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there were few attempts at social distancing.

Atson, who is black, described seeing her 14- and 11-year-old brothers tackled by Minneapolis police years ago because officers mistakenly presumed the boys had guns. She said she had been at “every single protest” since Floyd’s death and worried about raising children who could be vulnerable in police encounters.

“We don’t want to be here fighting against anyone. We don’t want anyone to be hurt. We don’t want to cause any damages,” she said. “We just want the police officer to be held accountable.” The group marched peacefully for three hours before another confrontation with police broke out, though details were scarce.

After calling in the Guard, Walz urged widespread changes in the wake of Floyd’s death. “It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they’re charged to protect,” Walz said.

Much of the Minneapolis violence occurred in the Longfellow neighborhood, where protesters converged on the precinct station of the police who arrested Floyd. In a strip mall across the street from the 3rd Precinct station, the windows in nearly every business had been smashed, from the large Target department store at one end to the Planet Fitness gym at the other. Only the 24-hour laundromat appeared to have escaped unscathed.

“WHY US?” demanded a large expanse of red graffiti scrawled on the wall of the Target. A Wendy’s restaurant across the street was charred almost beyond recognition. Among the casualties of the overnight fires: a six-story building under construction that was to provide nearly 200 apartments of affordable housing.

“We’re burning our own neighborhood,” said a distraught Deona Brown, a 24-year-old woman standing with a friend outside the precinct station, where a small group of protesters were shouting at a dozen or so stone-faced police officers in riot gear. “This is where we live, where we shop, and they destroyed it.” No officers could be seen beyond the station.

“What that cop did was wrong, but I’m scared now,” Brown said. Others in the crowd saw something different in the wreckage. Protesters destroyed property “because the system is broken,” said a young man who identified himself only by his nickname, Cash, and who said he had been in the streets during the violence. He dismissed the idea that the destruction would hurt residents of the largely black neighborhood.

“They’re making money off of us,” he said angrily of the owners of the destroyed stores. He laughed when asked if he had joined in the looting or violence. “I didn’t break anything.” The protests that began Wednesday night and extended into Thursday were more violent than Tuesday’s, which included skirmishes between offices and protesters but no widespread property damage.

Mayor Jacob Frey appealed for calm but the city’s response to the protests was quickly questioned as things started spiraling into violence. “If the strategy was to keep residents safe — it failed,” City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who is black, tweeted. “Prevent property damage — it failed.” On Thursday, he urged police to leave the scene of the overnight violence, saying their presence brings people into the streets.

Protests have also spread to other U.S. cities. In New York City, protesters defied New York’s coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings Thursday, clashing with police, while demonstrators blocked traffic in downtown Denver. A day earlier, demonstrators had taken to the streets in Los Angeles and Memphis.

In Louisville, Kentucky, police confirmed that at least seven people had been shot Thursday night as protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in March.

Amid the violence in Minneapolis, a man was found fatally shot Wednesday night near a pawn shop, possibly by the owner, authorities said. Fire crews responded to about 30 intentionally set blazes, and multiple fire trucks were damaged by rocks and other projectiles, the fire department said. No one was hurt by the blazes.

The city on Thursday released a transcript of the 911 call that brought police to the grocery store where Floyd was arrested. The caller described someone paying with a counterfeit bill, with workers rushing outside to find the man sitting on a van. The caller described the man as “awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself.” Asked by the 911 operator whether the man was “under the influence of something,” the caller said: “Something like that, yes. He is not acting right.” Police said Floyd matched the caller’s description of the suspect.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said Thursday they were conducting “a robust criminal investigation” into the death. President Donald Trump has said he had asked an investigation to be expedited.

The FBI is also investigating whether Floyd’s civil rights were violated. Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, was fired Tuesday with three other officers involved in the arrest. The next day, the mayor called for Chauvin to be criminally charged. He also appealed for the activation of the National Guard.

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski, Jeff Baenen and Doug Glass in Minneapolis, and Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

Tensions mar Paris protest as Floyd outrage goes global

June 03, 2020

PARIS (AP) — Tear gas choked Paris streets as riot police faced off with protesters setting fires Tuesday amid growing global outrage over George Floyd’s death in the United States, racial injustice and heavy-handed police tactics around the world.

French protesters took a knee and raised their fists while firefighters struggled to extinguish multiple blazes as a largely peaceful, multiracial demonstration degenerated into scattered tensions. Police said at least 20,000 people joined the demonstration, defying a virus-related ban on protests to pay homage to Floyd and Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody.

Electric scooters and construction barriers went up in flames, and smoke stained a sign reading “Restaurant Open” — on the first day French cafes were allowed to open after nearly three months of virus lockdown.

Chanting “I can’t breathe,” thousands marched peacefully through Australia’s largest city, while thousands more demonstrated in the Dutch capital of The Hague and hundreds rallied in Tel Aviv. Expressions of anger erupted in multiple languages on social networks, with thousands of Swedes joining an online protest and others speaking out under the banner of #BlackOutTuesday.

Diplomatic ire percolated too, with the European Union’s top foreign policy official saying the bloc was “shocked and appalled” by Floyd’s death. Floyd died last week after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. The death set off protests that spread across America — and now, beyond.

As demonstrations escalated worldwide, solidarity with U.S. protesters increasingly mixed with local worries. “This happened in the United States, but it happens in France, it happens everywhere,” Paris protester Xavier Dintimille said. While he said police violence seems worse in the U.S., he added, “all blacks live this to a degree.”

Fears of the coronavirus remain close to the surface and were the reason cited for banning Tuesday’s protest at the main Paris courthouse, because gatherings of more than 10 people remain forbidden.

But demonstrators showed up anyway. Some said police violence worsened during virus confinement in working class suburbs with large minority populations, deepening a feeling of injustice. As the Paris demonstration wound down, police fired volley after volley of tear gas and protesters threw debris. Police were less visible than usual at the city’s frequent protests. Tensions also erupted at a related protest in the southern city of Marseille.

The demonstrations were held in honor of Traore, who died shortly after his arrest in 2016, and in solidarity with Americans demonstrating against Floyd’s death. The Traore case has become emblematic of the fight against police brutality in France. The circumstances of the death of the 24-year-old Frenchman of Malian origin are still under investigation after four years of conflicting medical reports about what happened.

The lawyer for two of the three police officers involved in the arrest, Rodolphe Bosselut, said the Floyd and Traore cases “have strictly nothing to do with each other.” Bosselut told The Associated Press that Traore’s death wasn’t linked with the conditions of his arrest but other factors, including a preexisting medical condition.

Traore’s family says he died from asphyxiation because of police tactics — and that his last words were “I can’t breathe.” “I can’t breathe” were also the final words of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.

As 3,000 people marched peacefully through Sydney, many said they had been inspired by a mixture of sympathy for African Americans and to call for change in Australia’s treatment of its indigenous population, particularly involving police. The mostly Australian crowd at the authorized demonstration also included protesters from the U.S. and elsewhere.

“I’m here for my people, and for our fallen brothers and sisters around the world,” said Sydney indigenous woman Amanda Hill, 46, who attended the rally with her daughter and two nieces. “What’s happening in America shines a light on the situation here.”

Even as U.S. President Donald Trump fanned anger by threatening to send in troops on American protesters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refrained from directly criticizing him and said the protests should force awareness of racism everywhere.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,” he said after pausing 21 seconds before answering. “But it is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we, too, have our challenges, that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day. There is systemic discrimination in Canada.”

More protests in various countries are planned later in the week, including a string of demonstrations in front of U.S. embassies on Saturday. The drama unfolding in the U.S. drew increasing diplomatic concern.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s remarks in Brussels were the strongest to come out of the 27-nation bloc, saying Floyd’s death was a result of an abuse of power. Borrell told reporters that “like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd.” He underlined that Europeans “support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said peaceful protests in the U.S. following Floyd’s death are “understandable and more than legitimate.” “I can only express my hope that the peaceful protests do not continue to lead to violence, but even more express the hope that these protests have an effect in the United States,” Maas said.

More African leaders are speaking up over the killing of Floyd. “It cannot be right that, in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism,” Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement, adding that black people the world over are shocked and distraught.

Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga offered a prayer for the U.S., “that there be justice and freedom for all human beings who call America their country.” Like some in Africa who have spoken out, Odinga also noted troubles at home, saying the judging of people by character instead of skin color “is a dream we in Africa, too, owe our citizens.”

Associated Press writers Rick Rycroft in Sydney, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Lori Hinnant in Paris, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Lorne Cook in Brussels, Peter Dejong in The Hague contributed.

Protesters mass in Hong Kong before anthem law is debated

May 27, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of protesters shouted pro-democracy slogans and insults at police in Hong Kong before lawmakers later Wednesday debate a bill criminalizing abuse of the Chinese national anthem in the semi-autonomous city.

Police massed outside the legislative building ahead of the meeting and warned protesters that if they did not disperse, they could be prosecuted. In the Central business district, police raised flags warning protesters to disperse, before they shot pepper balls at protesters and searched several people. More than 50 people in the Causeway Bay shopping district were rounded up and made to sit outside a shopping mall, while riot police patrolled and warned journalists to stop filming while brandishing pepper spray.

At least 16 people, most of them teenagers, were arrested on charges of possessing items fit for unlawful purposes, such as petrol bombs and screwdrivers. Three of the people arrested were charged for dangerous driving.

Lawmakers were to debate a bill that would make it illegal to insult or abuse the “March of the Volunteers” in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Those found guilty could face up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,450).

The bill was proposed in January 2019 after Hong Kong spectators jeered at the anthem during high-profile, international soccer matches in 2015. Last year, FIFA fined the Hong Kong Football Association after fans booed the Chinese national anthem at a World Cup qualifying game.

Hong Kong was returned to China from British colonial rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework that promised freedoms not found on the mainland. Anti-China sentiment has risen as residents see Beijing moving to erode those rights.

Mass protests in 2014, known as the Umbrella Revolution, followed the Chinese government’s decision to allow direct election of the city leader only after it screened candidates. In the end, the plan for direct elections was dropped.

Legislation proposed in Hong Kong last year that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials set off months of demonstrations that at times involved clashes between protesters and police. The legislation was withdrawn.

China’s ceremonial parliament now meeting in Beijing has moved to enact a national security law for Hong Kong, aimed at forbidding secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism. Hong Kong’s own government has been unable to pass such legislation due to the opposition in the city, but Beijing advanced the law itself after the protests last year.

Opponents of the anthem bill say it is a blow to freedom of expression in the city, while Beijing officials previously said that the law would foster a patriotic spirit and the country’s socialist core values.

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