On Monday Jun 1st, as officials extended curfews to prevent a seventh night of looting and vandalism, US President Donald Trump urged state governors to come down hard on American citizens participating in nationwide protests over racial inequality.
After protests over police brutality against African Americans turned violent again overnight, residents and business owners spent most of Monday cleaning up the streets of broken glass and taking stock of damage in cities from New York right up to Santa Monica, California.
Trump instructed the governors “You have to dominate,” in a private call obtained by Reuters and other news media. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time – they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”
The federal government was going to take “very strong” countermeasures to curb the violence said Trump.
Curfews have been imposed on dozens of United States cities at a level not seen since riots followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, the African American civil rights activist back in 1968, calling out for the deployment of the National Guard in the US capital, Washington, and 23 states.
Washington, DC, has also come under extended curfew as authorities fought to put out fires near the White House overnight, with the same situation for Los Angeles and in Minnesota which is experiencing the worst violence.
In Louisville, Kentucky, one person was killed during a riot when police and National Guard troops tried to disperse a crowd by returning fire. Mayor Lori Lightfoot told a press briefing that police fielded more than 10,000 calls for looting in Chicago, the country’s third-largest city.
As the country was easing out of lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, George Floyd, a black man, died last Monday while under police custody in Minneapolis, which led to riots starting out as peaceful protests.
A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes before Floyd died, as could be seen in a video footage. Derek Chauvin, 44, was fired from his post after the incident, and he has subsequently been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
According to jail records, he was released on US$500,000 bail and is due to make his first appearance in court on June 8th.
On Monday, many people quietly paid their respects to Floyd at the scene of the crime, the Cup Foods, which led to the premature ending of his life. Piles of flowers and signs honoring Floyd were left on the pavement by visitors. A message written by a little girl using aqua blue chalk on the road read, “I’ll fight with you,”.
Diana Jones, mother of four children, said, “This is therapeutic. My heart was real heavy this morning so I came down extra early and when I got here, the heaviness lifted. This right here let’s me know that things are going to be ok.”
The victim’s brother, Terrence Floyd, told the gathering he wanted people to not destroy their own communities, but rather get educated and vote. “Let’s do this another way,” Floyd said.
In Washington DC, St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is opposite the White House, is a historic place where many US presidents have worshipped. The church underwent minor damage from riots while the AFL-CIO labor group headquarters nearby the church was vandalized.
George Floyd’s death was the latest incident of racism in law enforcement that prompted a wide public outcry. Across a politically and racially divided country, it reignited public outrage especially after the country was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic with African Americans making up a high number of cases.
A senior department official in the US Justice Department told reporters that they directed the Bureau of Prisons to send in riot-control teams to Miami and Washington, DC, to control the protests.
The official went on to say people who crossed state lines to take part in the protests are being interviewed, and they might find themselves facing federal charges to incite violence during protests.
It is truly an unfortunate time for many US cities that are slowly trying to restart some economic activity after more than two months of stay-at-home orders to curb a pandemic that has killed over 104,000 people and caused more than 40 million Americans to be unemployed.
2nd June 2020 18:50
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