Protesters set police cars ablaze, smashed businesses’ windows and skirmished with baton-wielding officers in streets from Atlanta to Los Angeles, as anger over George Floyd’s death spread across the country.
Authorities were bracing for more violence Saturday, with some calling in the National Guard to beef up overwhelmed forces.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Saturday said the city would support peaceful protests, but any damage or violence would not be tolerated. Police made more than 100 arrests during a downtown protest that began on Friday night and lasted into early Saturday. Lightfoot said there had been “minimal” illegal activity, which included breaking store windows.
In Minneapolis, the city where Floyd died Monday after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck and kept it there for more than eight minutes, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz fully mobilized the state’s National Guard and promised a massive show of force to help quell unrest that has grown increasingly destructive.
“The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” Walz said. “It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”
On Friday alone, more than two dozen cities — from New York to Oakland, California, from Atlanta to Portland, Oregon — experienced protests, many peaceful but some of which turned violent.
Many protesters spoke of frustration that Floyd’s death was one more in a litany. It comes in the wake of the killing in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot after being pursued by two white men while running in their neighborhood, and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that has thrown millions out of work, killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. and disproportionately affected black people.
President Donald Trump did little to tamp down the anger, firing off a series of tweets ridiculing people who protested outside the White House and warning that if protesters breached the fence, “they would … have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
Minnesota has steadily increased the number of National Guardsmen it says it needs to contain the unrest, and has now called up 1,700. The arrest and charging of the officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck on Friday appears to have provided little balm.
Georgia’s governor, meanwhile, declared a state of emergency early Saturday to activate the state National Guard as violence flared in Atlanta. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also declared an emergency and ordered a nighttime curfew for the city.
The Guard was also on standby in the District of Columbia. Some protesters tried to push through barriers set up by the U.S. Secret Service along Pennsylvania Avenue, and threw bottles and other objects at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with pepper spray.
“I just feel like he’s just one of many names that we’ve had to create hashtags and T-shirts and campaigns for and I feel like nothing has changed,” district resident Abe Neri said of Floyd. “And so that’s why I’m out here. Yeah, when you say nothing you’re taking the side of the oppressor.”
A person was killed in downtown Detroit just before midnight after someone in an SUV fired shots into a crowd of protesters near the Greektown entertainment district, police said. In Portland, Oregon, protesters broke into police headquarters and authorities said they lit a fire inside. In Virginia’s capital, a police cruiser was set on fire outside Richmond police headquarters, and a city transit spokeswoman said a bus set ablaze was “a total loss,” news outlets reported.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted that up to 500 members of the Guard would deploy immediately “to protect people & property in Atlanta.” He said he acted at the request of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who earlier appealed in vain for calm.
In scenes both peaceful and violent across the nation, thousands of protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name. George Floyd.” They hoisted signs reading: “He said I can’t breathe. Justice for George.”
Some demonstrators smashed police cars and spray-painted the iconic logo sign at CNN headquarters in downtown Atlanta. At least three officers were hurt and there were multiple arrests, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said, as protesters shot at officers with BB guns and threw bricks, bottles and knives.
Atlanta officials said crews were temporarily unable to reach a fire at Del Frisco’s restaurant in the Buckhead neighborhood several miles north because of protesters there.
“This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Bottoms said. “You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.”
Bottoms was flanked by King’s daughter, Bernice King, and rappers T.I. and Killer Mike.
“We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta what have we got?” said Killer Mike, crying as he spoke.
Video posted to social media showed New York City officers using batons and shoving protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared streets. One video showed on officer slam a woman to the ground as he walked past her in the street.
Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, scrawled graffiti across its charred body and set it aflame again as officers retreated. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter another police vehicle.
“There will be a full review of what happened tonight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, referring to the Brooklyn protest. “We don’t ever want to see another night like this.”
The police department said numerous officers were injured, including one whose tooth was knocked out.
The names of black people killed by police, including Floyd and Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014, were on signs and in chants.
“Our country has a sickness. We have to be out here,” said Brianna Petrisko, among those at lower Manhattan’s Foley Square, where most were wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. “This is the only way we’re going to be heard.”
Protesters in Houston, where Floyd grew up, included 19-year-old Jimmy Ohaz from the nearby city of Richmond, Texas: “My question is how many more, how many more? I just want to live in a future where we all live in harmony and we’re not oppressed.”
Demonstrators on the West Coast blocked highways in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.
About 1,000 protesters in Oakland smashed windows, sprayed buildings with “Kill Cops” graffiti and were met with chemical spray from police, who said several officers were injured by projectiles.
One Los Angeles officer received medical treatment, police said. An LAPD vehicle had its windows smashed, and at least one city bus was vandalized. Police declared an unlawful assembly throughout downtown, where aerial footage from KTLA-TV showed scored of people corralled by police.
An LAPD spokesman told The Associated Press they were still tallying arrests.
Portland, Oregon, police said at least one shooting was tied to the protest, although details weren’t immediately released.
Mayor Wheeler tweeted a plea to protesters to remain peaceful and said that, while he had left the city to attend to his dying mother, he was heading back. He later declared a state of emergency.
“Portland, this is not us,” he wrote. “When you destroy our city, you are destroying our community. When you act in violence against each other, you are hurting all of us. How does this honor the legacy of George Floyd?”