WASHINGTON (AP) — A country convulsed by violent protests picked up the pieces Monday and braced for more trouble amid a coast-to-coast outpouring of rage over police killings of black people. President Donald Trump demanded the nation’s governors crack down harder on the lawlessness, telling them: “Most of you are weak.”
After six straight days of unrest set off by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a new routine was developing: residents waking up to neighborhoods in shambles, shopkeepers sweeping up broken glass and taking stock of ransacked stores, and police and political leaders weighing how to address the boiling anger.
“We are a country that is scared,” said Sam Page, county executive in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the city of Ferguson has been synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement since the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, during a confrontation with a white officer. “We are country that is angry. And we are a country that is holding out for the promise of justice for all.”
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was considering imposing a curfew on the nation’s biggest city after a night in which groups of people broke into Chanel, Prada and Rolex boutiques and electronics stores.
At the same time, the mayor said the law-breaking in the city of 8.6 million people was being “fomented by a very small number of violent protesters. That is not what everyday community people are doing.”
While many of the demonstrations around the country have been peaceful protests by racially diverse crowds, others have descended into violence, despite curfews in many cities across the U.S. and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in at least 15 states over the past week.
On Sunday, protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police in Philadelphia, set a fire near the White House and were hit with tear gas or pepper spray in Austin, Texas, Atlanta and other cities. Seven Boston police officers were hospitalized. In some cities, thieves smashed their way into stores and ran off with as much as they could carry.
Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Kentucky, killed a man early Monday when they returned fire after someone in a large group shot at them, police said. In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence over the weekend, adding to deaths recorded in Detroit and Minneapolis.
In hard-hit Minneapolis, thousands marching on a closed freeway Sunday were shaken when a tractor-trailer rolled into their midst. No serious injuries were reported. The driver was arrested on suspicion of assault.
Floyd died last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes, pinning him to the pavement, while Floyd gasped that he could not breathe.
Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with murder, but protesters are demanding the three other officers at the scene be prosecuted. All four were fired.
Racial tensions around the U.S. have also been running high because of the arrest of two white men in May in the February shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and after Louisville, Kentucky, police shot Breonna Taylor to death in her home in March.
Even as police in some places tried to calm tensions by kneeling or marching in solidarity with protesters, officers elsewhere were accused of the very type of harsh treatment at the heart of the unrest.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an officer was suspended for pushing a kneeling woman to the ground during a protest. Two Atlanta officers were fired after bashing in the window of a car and using a stun gun on its two occupants. In Los Angeles over the weekend, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters in a street, knocking two people to the ground.
In New York, the police commissioner said about six incidents were being investigated by the department’s internal affairs bureau, including a weekend confrontation in Brooklyn in which two police vehicles appeared to plow through a group of protesters. In another incident, an officer pointed a gun at protesters, drawing condemnation from the mayor.
“I think some of the actions of the NYPD have exacerbated the anger,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “There are videos of some NYPD actions that are very disturbing. There are videos of NYPD cars driving into a crowd that are very disturbing. Pulling a mask down off a person to pepper spray them. Throwing a woman to the ground. It’s on video! It’s on video!”
The upheaval has unfolded amid the gloom and economic ruin caused by the coronavirus, which has killed over 100,000 Americans and sent unemployment soaring to levels not seen since the Depression. The outbreak has claimed a disproportionate number of minority lives.
The scale of the protests has rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. At least 4,400 people have been arrested for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count compiled by The Associated Press.
A bellicose Trump, in a video teleconference with the nation’s governors and law enforcement authorities, said: “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
The president told the governors they were making themselves “look like fools” for not calling up more National Guard members.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, wrote a post online expressing empathy for those despairing about Floyd’s killing. On Monday, he met with community leaders at a black church in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
“The vice president came to hear from us. This is a homeboy,” said Sylvester Beaman, pastor of the Bethel AME church.
Morrison reported from Minneapolis and Sedensky reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press journalists across the U.S. contributed to this report.