Protesters defy curfews after Trump demands crackdown

Donald Trump demanded a military-led crackdown against protests over the killing of George Floyd as demonstrators in US cities continued to defy curfews.

Authorities across the country, from New York to Atlanta and Los Angeles, had imposed curfews in a bid to manage the most widespread unrest since the civil-rights era. The protests over the death of Floyd, the latest black man to be killed by police, continued but clashes with police appeared to slow.

In Washington, protesters gathered near Lafayette Park, a square in front of the White House, which had been fortified with fences to keep the crowds further away from the presidential residence

The demonstration came a day after police used tear gas to clear a path for Mr Trump to walk to a church to pose for a photo holding a Bible — an act criticised by religious leaders and some Republicans.

Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator and one of several women being considered by Joe Biden as a running mate, joined the protesters. “He is imposing violence on our people,” Ms Warren said, according to The Boston Globe.

Thousands of demonstrators also congregated in front of the US Capitol, chanting “silence is violence”, Reuters reported.

In New York, protests continued after the curfew began in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some demonstrators were temporarily trapped on Manhattan Bridge after police blocked their exit, said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Congresswoman.

Officials in New York had moved the curfew forward by three hours to 8pm and extended it through the week, after trading accusations over who was to blame for the failure to protect businesses from looting on Monday.

Mr Trump has repeatedly demanded that city and state authorities across the country deploy the military to quell the protests but demonstrators were still on the streets. He claimed credit for the relatively peaceful protests earlier on Tuesday.

The Pentagon said 1,600 soldiers from North Carolina and New York had been moved to the Washington DC region — the first time active-duty soldiers have been mobilised amid the protests.

“Active duty elements are postured on military bases in the National Capitol Region but are not in Washington DC. They are on heightened alert status but . . . are not participating in defence support to civil authority operations,” the Pentagon said.

The most prestigious retail stretch on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was boarded up in anticipation of further disturbance © JASON SZENES/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Keisha Lance Bottoms, the African-American mayor of Atlanta, told CNN that protesters in the city were “by and large” respecting the curfew, which took effect at 9pm.

Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, the city where Floyd grew up, said 60,000 people marched on Tuesday. “Relatively speaking, our streets are quiet [tonight],” he told CNN.

Although conservatives welcomed Mr Trump’s threat to send US soldiers on to the streets, critics accused him of acting like a dictator and trying to shift attention from the death of Floyd.

The Michael Kors store in Manhattan was among the targets of looting © REUTERS

In a rare statement, George W Bush, the former Republican president, said the US needed to “listen to the voices of so many who are hurting”.

“Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place,” Mr Bush said in remarks that appeared to be an indirect criticism of Mr Trump.

But Mr Trump was unmoved.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he wrote on Twitter. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

Workers put up boards around the Apple store on Fifth Avenue © AFP via Getty Images

Americans protesting against racism after Floyd’s death were boosted after Ella Jones was elected as the first African-American mayor of Ferguson, Missouri. The city witnessed protests in 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, a black teenager. 

Meanwhile, Steve King, a Republican lawmaker who was kicked off congressional committees by his own party for repeated racist remarks, lost his primary race in his Iowa congressional district.

Reporting by Demetri Sevastopulo and Katrina Manson in Washington, Joshua Chaffin, Mamta Badkar and Lauren Fedor in New York, and Hannah Murphy in San Francisco