WASHINGTON (AP) — After six straight days of unrest, America headed into a new work week Monday with neighborhoods in shambles, urban streets on lockdown and political leaders struggling to control the coast-to-coast outpouring of rage over police killings of black people.
Despite curfews in big cities across the U.S. and the deployment of thousands of National Guard soldiers over the past week, demonstrations descended into violence again 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 and pepper spray in Austin, Texas, and other cities. Seven Boston police officers were hospitalized.
More Protesters Killed
Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Kentucky, killed a man early Monday. Police claimed they returned fire after someone in a large group shot at them first. In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence over the weekend, adding to deaths recorded in Detroit and Minneapolis.
The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Racial tensions were also running high after two white men were arrested 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.
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 hit minorities especially hard, not just in infections and deaths but in job losses and economic stress.
The scale of the coast-to-coast protests has rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. At least 4,400 people have been arrested, according to a count compiled by The Associated Press.
"They keep killing our people. I’m so sick and tired of it,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who was at a Boston protest with her mother Sunday, leading chants of "George Floyd, say his name!”
At the White House, the scene of three days of demonstrations, police fired tear gas and stun grenades Sunday into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park.
The crowd ran, piling up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a street nearby. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the flames. A building in the park with bathrooms and a maintenance office was burned down.
The district’s entire National Guard — roughly 1,700 soldiers — was called in to help control the protests, according to Pentagon officials.
Trump Rushed to Bunker
As the unrest grew, President Donald Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton, who called for "overwhelming force” against demonstrators.
Critics accuse Trump, who is seeking
re-election in a Nov. 3 election, of further stoking conflict and racial tension rather than seeking to bring the country together and address the underlying issues.
"He’s not helping ... He is not leading, he is causing further disruption,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN on Monday. "Unless he is going to speak unity and respect and reconciliation and reform for our communities, then I don’t think that he should make a statement at all. It will only make matters worse.”
Secret Service agents rushed Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.
Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private matters and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House, where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.
Friday’s protests have sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House complex since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, according to the Republican.
Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.
Nevertheless, he has continued his effort to project strength, using a series of inflammatory tweets and delivering partisan attacks during a time of national crisis.
As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.
In recent days security at the White House has been reinforced by the National Guard and additional personnel from the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.
On Sunday, the Justice Department deployed members of the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration to supplement National Guard troops outside the White House, according to a senior Justice Department official. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Thousands marched peacefully in Phoenix; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and other cities.
In downtown Atlanta, authorities fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said two officers had been fired and three placed on desk duty after video showed police surrounding a car Saturday and using stun guns on the man and woman inside.
In Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters in a street, knocking two people to the ground. Nearby in Santa Monica, not far from a peaceful demonstration, groups broke into stores, walking out with boxes of shoes and folding chairs, among other items. A fire broke out at a restaurant across the street. Scores of people swarmed into stores in Long Beach. Some hauled armloads of clothing from a Forever 21 store away in garbage bags.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz brought in thousands of National Guard soldiers on Saturday to help quell the unrest.
In tweets Sunday, Trump accused anarchists and the media of fueling violence. Attorney General William Barr pointed a finger at "far left extremist” groups. Police chiefs and politicians accused outsiders of causing the problems.
Floyd’s death has triggered protests beyond the United States, with thousands in Montreal and London marching in solidarity.
On the other side of the globe on Monday, thousands marched to the U.S. consulate in Auckland chanting "no justice, no peace” and "black lives matter.”