‘I Can’t Breathe’: Protests Heat up as Curfews Imposed in Several US Cities

Civil unrest flared and curfews were imposed in several major U.S. cities on Saturday as demonstrators took to the streets to vent outrage at the death of a black man shown on video gasping for breath as a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck.

From Los Angeles to Miami to Chicago, protests marked by chants of “I can’t breathe” – a rallying cry echoing the dying words of George Floyd – began peacefully before turning unruly as demonstrators blocked traffic, set fires and clashed with riot police, some firing tear gas and plastic bullets in an effort to restore order.

The sight of protesters flooding streets fueled a sense of crisis in the United States after weeks of lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen millions thrown out of work and has disproportionately affected minority communities.

In the nation’s capital, hundreds of demonstrators assembled near the Justice Department headquarters shouting, “black lives matter.” Many later moved to the White House, where they faced off with shield-carrying police, some mounted on horseback.

President Donald Trump said on Saturday that if protesters who gathered the night before in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, had breached the fence, “they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”

The full Minnesota National Guard was activated for the first time since World War Two after four nights of arson, looting and vandalism in parts of Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, and its adjacent capital, St. Paul.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the deployment was necessary because outside agitators were using protests over Floyd’s death to sow chaos.

“We are under assault,” Walz, a first-term governor elected from Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, told a briefing on Saturday. “Order needs to be restored.”

Separately, U.S. Attorney General William Barr also pointed the finger at extremist instigators, though he and Walz – neither offering evidence to support their assertions – suggested opposite ends of the political fringe were to blame.

NATIONAL DISCONTENT REFLECTED

Civil rights activists said video of Floyd’s arrest on Monday – captured by an onlooker’s cellphone as he repeatedly groaned, “please, I can’t breathe” before he died – triggered an outpouring of rage long simmering over persistent racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

But the rapidly spreading protests also coincided with a deep-seated national discontent over the social claustrophobia and economic carnage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a surreal moment for Miami on Saturday, police sirens and lights flooded downtown neighborhoods as fireworks began crackling and booming over Biscayne Bay to honor healthcare workers fighting the pandemic. Hundreds of police in riot gear swarmed the area, threatening to arrest anyone, including media, who ventured onto the streets.

Curfews were imposed in several major cities rocked by civil disturbances in recent days, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Cincinnati, Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky. Protests also flared on Saturday in Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Cleveland.

In an extraordinary move, the Pentagon said it put military units on a four-hour alert to be ready if requested by the Minnesota governor to help keep the peace.

National Guard units also were mobilized by the governors of Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

The streets of Minneapolis were largely quiet during the day on Saturday. Several armored National Guard vehicles were seen rolling through town and authorities later closed major highways leading in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

At dusk, as the curfew went into effect, police confronted some 500 protesters milling around a burned-out bank and opened fire with tear gas and plastic bullets, sending the crowd scurrying.

Tina Harrison, 32, gasping and coughing as she and two companions poured milk over their faces after being pepper-sprayed, insisted they were present to voice legitimate grievances as protesters, not to incite lawlessness.

“We came here as white women … to protect people of color,” Harrison said while they took cover inside an apartment lobby.

It marked the fifth night of such clashes, the second since Friday’s announcement that Derek Chauvin, the policeman seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, had been arrested on murder charges in Floyd’s death.

Floyd, who had worked security for Minneapolis nightclubs, had been suspected of trying to pass counterfeit money to buy cigarettes on Monday evening. Police said he was unarmed. A store employee who had called for help had told a police dispatcher that the suspect appeared to be intoxicated.

Three other officers dismissed on Tuesday from the police department with Chauvin, who was known to have worked off-duty security at one of the same nightclubs as Floyd, are also under criminal investigation in the case, prosecutors said.

‘COULD’VE KILLED THEM’

Anger stoked by Floyd’s death was widespread.

Thousands flooded Chicago streets for a second day of protests. Cellphone footage shared with Reuters showed an overturned SUV, a patrol car on fire, a person burning the American flag and a skirmish between demonstrators and police.

In the Brooklyn borough of New York City, video footage recorded by onlookers showed a police squad car driving into a crowd of protesters during a second day of violence after more than 200 arrests were made on Friday.

“They could’ve killed them, & we don’t know how many they injured,” U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter, demanding the NYPD officers be brought to justice.

At a late-night news conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested protesters were to blame.

“The video was upsetting, and I wish the officers hadn’t done that,” de Blasio said. “But I also understood that they didn’t start the situation. The situation was started by a group of protesters converging on a police vehicle, attacking that vehicle.”

The mayor said flare-ups of violence were primarily instigated by small numbers of outsiders determined to goad police into confrontations, a phenomenon authorities said was playing out across the country.

Protesters in Los Angeles clashed with police in the city’s Fairfax district, where crowds tried to force their way into the CBS Television City studios but were repulsed by law enforcement and security officers, the Los Angeles Times said.

Looters broke into stores at The Grove shopping center in Fairfax, TV reported, as well as into shops along the famed Rodeo Drive of wealthy Beverly Hills.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garnett told reporters, “This is no longer a protest. This is vandalism … this is destruction.”

(Reporting Brendan O’Brien and Carlos Barria in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Andy Sullivan in Washington, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles, and Karen Pierog in Chicago; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Responses

  1. I noticed that and I wonder if it’s a good idea that while the police are supporting the protests, they kneel, isn’t that kind of like carrying around a noose? Who are they really supporting?

  2. Obama the Bigot started all this. Huge Racial Divide thanks to him. He wanted to Fundamentally Change America and I knew I would never Vote for him! I didn’t Trust his BS Hope and Change. Maybe we can move forward in this country if the demon rats would stop with the attacks and maybe we could all work together to come to some common solutions.

  3. “The sight of protesters flooding streets fueled a sense of crisis in the United States after weeks of lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen millions thrown out of work and has disproportionately affected minority communities.” Are they saying the disease is racist too? I guess so. Perhaps it’s the people themselves, not adhering to distancing standards, rebelling against authority. Oh wait, they’ll say that somehow the President focused the disease on blacks. Chuck Todd only took 15 minutes on Meet the Press to start blaming the President for George Floyd’s death. Democrat pukes here will certainly blaming him. Not to fail, Michael already did. So sad for the sore losers. They’ll praise the Obamanation, who true to form, made an inflammatory speech designed to divide and incite riots, just as he did throughout his 8 years Presidency. Institutionalized racism, systemic racism oh my. Perhaps the dolt doesn’t realize that there are millions of whites protesting Floyd’s death as well. The Obamanation doesn’t care as long as he gets his 15 minutes of attention.

    1. “Are they saying the disease is racist too?”

      No, they are saying minorities tend to receive lowel level of care which leads to less positive outcomes. This has been said long before COVID-19.

      1. BS, their life style and defiance of instructions has caused the increase in disease. That is everywhere in Liberal cesspool cities. If a member of a minority shows up at the hospital, sick, they are treated. End of story.

  4. No different than Wyatts, Newark, except response was much later.

  5. Meanwhile POTUS continues to abdicate his responsibilities by watching TV and tweeting instead of acting like a leader.

    1. Michael – He already acted as a leader. I guess you missed it while you were pumping yourself.

  6. The most inferior to everyone, Caucasian trash Piece of Shit-In-Chief trumpuke is threatening to violate the Posse Commitatus Act and send the Army into protesting cities.

    The absolutely evil, psychopathic sicko LOVES pouring gasoline on raging fires and watching people die more than he loves lying and defrauding.

    He has utterly betrayed America and the Caucasian race.

    1. There is something very wrong with you. And doubtful that meds or a good psychiatrist will help. Your inability to express a coherent thought without foul language is pitiful. Why are you here. No one ever gives you a high five for your ignorance.

      1. You don’t know why Cheri ?
        You trumpukelicans claim to know everything
        just like your god-idol trumplethinskin.
        What happened ?

    2. So you only adored the black half of Obama? Out of curiosity which half was that precisely? And when did you develop the technology to separate his DNA like that?

      1. i am Caucasian.
        I respected Mr Obama
        I never adored him.
        Or anyone.

        1. Come on John, you now you idolized him, he was so special. I’ll bet you got all sweaty every time you saw him on TV. Did you have fantasies?

          1. The stupid PROJECTOR OF THE DAY is the insipid, little prick Chuck.

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