Protesters defy curfews as unrest rocks US cities

Violence has again erupted across multiple US cities following the death of George Floyd, with peaceful protests giving way to looting.

Protesters and looters defied curfews in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and other urban centres, leading to widespread clashes with police and arrests.

Two people were killed in Cicero, a Chicago suburb, according to the Associated Press. Ray Hanania, a municipal official, told the news agency that 60 people in the town had been arrested, but did not give further details on the two deaths.

Earlier on Monday, Donald Trump threatened to deploy the US military and berated state governors and mayors for being “weak”.

New York ordered residents home by 11pm on Monday, the first time a curfew had been imposed on New Yorkers in 70 years. As the deadline passed, about 1,000 protesters remained on the streets, with widespread looting taking place in the city’s glitzy midtown district.

“Protesters were overwhelmingly peaceful today and cops respected their right to speak out,” wrote New York City mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter. “But some people tonight had nothing to do with the cause and stole and damaged instead. That we won’t allow.”

The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis © AFP via Getty Images

Elsewhere in the state, two police officers in Buffalo were injured after a car was driven through a police line. Mark Poloncarz, Erie County’s executive, wrote on Twitter than the two officers were “allegedly in stable condition” after the incident.

In Washington, a peaceful protest outside the White House was dispersed by police firing tear gas and rubber bullets as Mr Trump addressed the nation.

In Louisville, Kentucky, tear gas was used to disperse several hundred protesters in the city’s downtown area. A march had been held in the city to protest the death of barbecue restaurant owner David McAtee, who was shot and killed by police officers on Monday morning.

The city’s police chief was fired after it emerged the body cameras worn by the officers involved in the incident had been switched off.

In Los Angeles, police moved in to arrest looters as an 8pm curfew passed. A peaceful protest had earlier taken place along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.

Michel Moore, the city’s police chief, was forced to retract a comment suggesting that looters had Floyd’s death “on their hands” as much as the white officers accused of killing the 46-year-old unarmed black man last week.

After being prompted to clarify by Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor, Mr Moore said Floyd’s death, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes, was being exploited as a “catalyst for violence”.

Floyd’s family released the results of a private autopsy, which concluded that he died from asphyxia. The findings contradicted the preliminary county report that found no evidence of “traumatic asphyxia or strangulation”.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt Floyd’s neck, is awaiting arraignment on charges of third-degree murder.

Mr Trump blamed the spreading violence on the “radical left” and asked the governors why they had not prosecuted looters. “You have every one of these guys on tape. Why aren’t you prosecuting them?” he said, according to a recording of his call with the governors. “The tougher you are, the less likely you’re going to be hit.”

The curfews were imposed after protests spread on Sunday night, leaving one person dead in Kentucky, and prompting authorities across the nation to prepare for more clashes.

Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed across more than half the states in the US.

As the US is gripped by the most widespread protests since the civil-rights era, it has created another crisis for Mr Trump five months before the election.

Shattered window and door glass over the floor inside Mervis Diamond Importers in Washington DC © AP

Since Floyd’s death, he has been criticised for appearing to incite violence against protesters.

Barack Obama, the former president, said the protests were a “genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system” in the US. He said the vast majority of the protesters were peaceful, and criticised the “small minority of folks” who resorted to violence.

“If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves,” Mr Obama wrote in a blog post.

Cleaning crews board up windows and sweep away broken glass of a UGG store on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts © CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Apart from the unrest, the US is also struggling to control the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced 40m Americans out of work and claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.

As Mr Trump has slipped in the polls in recent days, he has lashed out at Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, and resurrected the “law and order” rhetoric that he used to galvanise his base during the 2016 race.

Mr Trump has blamed the protests on Antifa, a leftist anti-fascist moment. He took aim at similar groups after the protests in Charlottesville in 2017, when he refused to condemn white supremacists and said there were “very fine people on both sides”.

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