Minneapolis/United States (28/5). Protests and, in some cases, violence, continued Thursday in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after a white officer pinned him to the ground under his knee.
Hundreds of protesters flooded Minneapolis streets Thursday evening for a march through downtown. Traffic was halted as a crowd of people stretched for up to four blocks. Protesters shouted “I can’t breathe” and “no justice, no peace; prosecute the police” as volunteer marshals in highlighter-colored vests directed traffic.
“The people of Minneapolis are not just protesting the public execution of George Floyd; they’re fighting for their lives. Mr. Floyd’s death — in addition to the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor — is yet another reminder of American law enforcement’s toxic tradition of abuse, negligence, violence, and discrimination toward black people,” Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color Of Change, said in a statement.
“The protests in Minneapolis are efforts by black and brown activists to rise up against centuries-old racism within the police department and prosecutors office and resist the white supremacy that has claimed far too many black lives.”
The demonstration began after a round of speeches that started at 5 p.m. at the Hennepin County Government Center. Mel Reeves, a longtime activist in the city, encouraged the crowd to be peaceful.
He said officials use damaging or violent protests to distract from the true issue of police brutality.
“They wanna use us to keep us from getting justice … they act like animals, then wanna make us look like animals,” Reeves told the crowd before directing them down South Third Avenue.
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“George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction,” Walz said.
Just after 6 p.m., a crowd of at least 300 people gathered at the intersection of Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue. As smoke from several burned-out buildings filled the air, protesters chanted and demanded justice.
“We can’t breathe,” they yelled. “We can’t breathe.”
About an hour earlier, a small group of police SUVs raced into the area and appeared to pluck out at least four people from the middle of a crowd, with officers firing what appeared to be tear gas and flash bangs to disperse a crowd of young men throwing rocks and bottles of soda and laundry detergent at their vehicles, along with eggs apparently looted from the nearby Target or Cub Foods stores.
While the core of the protest focused on police brutality and institutional racism, it also took on, at times, the air of a carnival, with young men and women riding bikes into the area to watch.
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A young woman casually spray-painted “(expletive) the police” on a metal sign while across the street a man tried to tip over a port-a-potty.
Protests continued elsewhere, too. In some cases, so did the chaos.
Police in New York City clashed with protesters on Thursday night. NYPD Lt. John Grimpel told USA TODAY that there had been “numerous” arrests in Lower Manhattan. He said an officer was hit in the head with a garbage can, another was punched in the face and others had been spit on.
Meanwhile, Colorado state Rep. Leslie Herod said someone “shot into the rally” taking place at the State Capitol in Denver. A local reporter confirmed shots were fired, but the Denver Police Department said there were no reports of injuries.
Later Thursday night in Denver, a video on Twitter showed a person in a car allegedly trying to run over a protester.
“You can be angry. You can be outraged. I certainly am and I join you in those feelings and demands of #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said on Twitter. “March for justice and to see it served, but please march in peace. Responding to violence with violence will only lead to more violence.”
Dozens of protesters — many wearing face masks — gathered in Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood on Thursday afternoon. Videos shared to social media showed protesters holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and chanting “no justice no peace, no racist police.”
There were two groups of protesters, and one person was arrested for disorderly conduct, the city’s superintendent, David Brown, said during an evening press conference. The demonstration “otherwise ended peacefully,” he said.
Also Thursday, attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Floyd’s family, said protesters “cannot sink to the level of our oppressors.”
“Looting and violence distract from the strength of our collective voice,” Crump said in a statement. “To assuage this death and begin the community’s healing, city and police leaders need to look at the culture they’ve created and ask the hard questions.”