With several cities wounded by days of violent protests, the United States kicked off a new week with debris-filled neighborhoods, cut-off urban streets, and diminished confidence in when their rulers will find the answers to control the chaos, in a climate of raw emotions for the deaths of black people at the hands of the police.
Everything collided against a country already affected by the more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, and unemployment at levels unheard of since the Great Depression.
A rugged weekend closed on Sunday in which local and state authorities deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers, imposed strict curfews and shut down public transportation systems.RELATED
Despite all this, many demonstrations led to violence when protesters threw stones and firebombs at police in Philadelphia, lit a bonfire near the White House, and were greeted with tear gas and pepper spray in Austin and other cities. Seven Boston police officers were hospitalized.
In some cities, thieves raided shops and took everything they could carry, leaving owners, many of whom were reopening their businesses after the coronavirus closings, to clean up broken glass.
In others, the police attempted to ease the tension by kneeling in solidarity with the protesters, while maintaining a broad deployment for security.
The protests began after the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air while a police officer put pressure on his neck with his knee. Tensions had already risen in the weeks leading up to the arrest of two white men in May for shooting dead Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who had run in Georgia, and the death in March of Breonna Taylor, shot at her home. by the Louisville Police.
“They continue to kill our people,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who attended with her mother and hundreds of others at a demonstration in downtown Boston. “I am sick of this”.
Protests at the White House flared on Sunday after three days of protests. Police used tear gas and stun grenades at a crowd of more than 1,000 people, chanting slogans across the street in Lafayette Park. The crowd rushed out and stacked traffic signs and plastic fences to light a large bonfire on a nearby street. Some removed a US flag from a building and threw it into the flames.
A park building that houses a maintenance office and public toilets was burned down. The protests continued beyond the curfew, and Washington police said they were responding to several warnings of arson attacks in the capital.
All Washington D.C. National Guard – about 1,700 soldiers – was deployed to help control the protests, according to two Defense Department officials who insisted on remaining anonymous because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.
As the protests grew in size, President Donald Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton, who called for “overwhelming force” against violent protesters.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, a likely Democratic candidate for president of the United States, visited a protest area in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and spoke to some protesters. He also wrote a Medium post expressing his understanding to the dismayed at Floyd’s death.
At least 4,400 people were detained in the days of the protests, according to a count by The Associated Press. The charges ranged from robberies and freeway cuts to failing curfews.
In Salt Lake City, an activist leader condemned the destruction of property but said that mourning for damaged buildings should not be on the same level as grief for black men like Floyd.
“Perhaps this country gets the message that we are fed up with the police murdering unarmed black men,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah. “Maybe the next time a white cop decides to pull the trigger, the image of burning cities will come to him.”
However, thousands of people continued to march peacefully in Phoenix, Albuquerque and other cities, with some calling for an end to the fires, vandalism and thefts, claiming they undermine their demands for justice and reform.
In downtown Atlanta, authorities fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said two officers had been fired and three relegated to administrative duties after a video was released showing officers surrounding a car on Saturday and using electric pistols against the man and woman inside. .
In downtown Los Angeles, a police van sped toward several protesters on a street, shooting down two people. The protesters got up and ran towards the sidewalk. In nearby Santa Monica, near a peaceful demonstration, a group broke into several stores and stole objects such as slippers and folding chairs. A fire broke out in a restaurant across the street.
In Minneapolis, the officer who pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes has already been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding that the other three police officers involved in the case be prosecuted. All four have already been fired.
“We are not done,” said Darnella Wade, organizer of Black Lives Matter in the neighboring city of St. Paul, where thousands of people gathered peacefully outside the State Capitol. “They sent us to the army and we only asked for arrests.”
Outrage over racism across many generations in a slave-owning country added to a series of recent deaths to fuel discontent. Added to that was the anguish for months of confinement caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hit communities of color, not only in the number of infected, but also in destroyed jobs and economic hardship.
The scale of protests across the country was similar to the historical demonstrations of the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War.