COLUMBUS (Dispatches) – Angry demonstrations erupted for a third night in Minneapolis on Thursday, as protesters — outraged over the death of an unarmed African American man in police custody — torched a city police station and President Trump threatened to respond with "shooting.”
Footage of the chaos showed crowds of protesters cheering as the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct was set ablaze — a response to the death Monday night of George Floyd, a 46-year-old pronounced dead shortly after a city police officer pinned Floyd’s head to the street with a knee on his neck.
"I can’t breathe,” Floyd protested. Minutes later, medical responders found him without a pulse.
A video of the incident quickly spread across the internet, sparking immediate protests in Minneapolis, where civil rights activists and Floyd’s family urged the arrest of the officers involved. Those calls are spreading to Capitol Hill, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has characterized the incident as "an execution” and Sen. Kamala Harris, former attorney general of California, wants the arresting officer to face murder charges.
While four officers were fired, no arrests have been made — a dynamic that helped trigger the escalation of violence on Thursday night, even despite calls for calm from city officials and Gov. Tim Walz’s decision to deploy the Minnesota National Guard.
Despite the pleas, parts of Minneapolis resembled a war zone late Thursday. And the incident sent shock waves well beyond Minnesota: Protests also flared up in Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio.
Trump wasted no time responding, taking to Twitter in the earliest hours of Friday morning to attack Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for "a total lack of leadership” and warn protesters that they might be shot.
"These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” he tweeted. "Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
"I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right...,” he added.
In Louisville, seven people were shot Thursday night during protests over a separate incident: the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman shot by police officers in her apartment in a botched raid.
On Thursday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee pressed the Justice Department to open investigations into the Floyd and Taylor killings, as well as that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man fatally shot by vigilantes in February while he was jogging through a neighborhood in south Georgia.
The confluence of tragedies has once again shone a spotlight on issues
of race and bias in the criminal justice system, sparking a national debate about racial profiling, police tactics and the role of the federal government in overseeing local law enforcement agencies. And they come at an exceedingly volatile time, when the country is already grappling with the health and economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit minority communities particularly hard.
Adding to the confusion and outrage, Minneapolis state police on Friday morning arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his two-person camera crew as they reported on the protests.The cameras were rolling as Jimenez — who was filming in an area where protesters had been cleared — told the officers that they were reporters, stating that they would happily move to a location that suits the troopers. Moments later, he was put under arrest. "Why am I under arrest, sir? Why am I under arrest, sir?” Jimenez said as an officer tightened disposable cuff restraints around his wrists and began walking him away from his crew. While they were later released, the move by the police ignited a firestorm. The episode comes amid growing scrutiny of the Minneapolis police. Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief, called Friday in a Washington Post op-ed for a "serious” review of police practices, hiring standards, training, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, early warning programs and more. "As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?” Demings wrote. Floyd’s death is gaining international attention. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences Thursday to the family of Floyd over his death. "The racist and fascist approach that led to the death of George Floyd in the U.S. city of Minneapolis as a result of torture has not only deeply saddened all of us, but it has also become one of the most painful manifestations of the unjust order we stand against across the world,” Erdogan said. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the heart-wrenching killing testifies to methodical racism and white supremacy in the United States. "Brutal killing of #George Floyd by Minneapolis’ white man in uniform in cold blood is a harrowing demonstration of systematic racism and white supremacism,” Abbas Mousavi tweeted on Thursday. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged U.S. authorities to deal with "entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination” in America’s criminal justice system. "Procedures must change, prevention systems must be put in place, and above all police officers who resort to excessive use of force, should be charged and convicted for the crimes committed,” the High Commissioner said in a statement.