US scrambles to stem revolt as Trump faces anger for violent crackdown
Protesters demonstrate on June 2, 2020, during a "Black Lives Matter" protest in New York City. Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
AFP/Angela Weiss
US scrambles to stem revolt as Trump faces anger for violent crackdown
Shaun Tandon (Agence France-Presse) - June 3, 2020 - 7:57am

WASHINGTON, United States — Leaders across the United States sought ways Tuesday to stem mounting unrest over police racism, from extending curfews to engaging protesters, as President Donald Trump faced wide criticism for deploying force to break up a peaceful rally.

Once-in-a-generation protests have brought a multiracial coalition peacefully to the streets for the past week but each night has descended into mayhem, with both activists and officials blaming rabble-rousers.

New York prolonged its first curfew since World War II for the full week after some of the city's most storied shopping addresses were ransacked, including the flagship Macy's store.

Minnesota took one of the first concrete actions to address the grievances behind the uprising, which began in the state's largest city Minneapolis after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man.

Floyd died after he was pinned for nearly nine minutes under the knee of a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, who ignored Floyd's pleas for his life and had remained on the force despite multiple complaints.

"We must take this moment to change it all," Lieutenant Governor Penny Flanagan said of structural discrimination.

She told reporters the state was launching a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, which would look into possible violations going back 10 years.

In Los Angeles, one of dozens of cities hit by unrest, police officers and Mayor Eric Garcetti dropped to their knees in a symbolic act of solidarity as they met marchers led by African-American Christian groups.

"A black face should not be a sentence to die, nor to be homeless, nor to be sick, nor to be underemployed, nor to be under-educated," Garcetti told them.

Inviting the leaders into City Hall, he promised a discussion about issues, "not about words."

"We need a country that listens," he said.

Trump blasts 'scum'

In Washington, thousands returned to the streets Tuesday for a peaceful "Black Lives Matter" march and helicopters quickly hovered above them, following a night of low-flying choppers kicking up debris in scenes reminiscent of the US occupation of Iraq.

On Monday, federal police abruptly opened tear gas and fired rubber bullets to break up a non-violent protest in Lafayette Park outside the White House, moments before Trump strolled outside for a photo-op at a historic nearby church damaged by arson the previous night.

Trump, who has rejected the traditional presidential role of healer, voiced glee on Twitter over the response in Washington and accused the leadership of New York -- led by the rival Democratic Party -- of succumbing to "Lowlife & Scum."

"Overwhelming force. Domination," wrote Trump, who a day earlier declared himself "your president of law and order."

Joe Biden, Trump's presumptive Democratic rival in November 3 elections, denounced the crackdown on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park as an abuse of power and promised, if elected, to tackle the "systemic racism" in the country.

"Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield driven by old resentments and fresh fears," Biden said in a speech in Philadelphia, also hit by violence. 

"He thinks division helps him," Biden said. "His narcissism has become more important than the nation's wellbeing."

Trump on Tuesday visited another prominent religious site, a shrine in honor of pope John Paul II, prompting the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Washington to say the space was being "egregiously misused and manipulated."

The late pontiff "certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate (people) for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace," Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said.

The United States also faced unusual, if polite, criticism from some of its international allies.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the anti-racism protests "understandable and more than legitimate."

"I hope that these peaceful protests won't slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States," Maas told reporters.

Germany, Britain and Australia all voiced concern about the safety of the media after a number of journalists were roughed up by police or occasionally by rioters.

Curfew extended in New York

New York, the fabled "City that Never Sleeps" that had just been emerging from weeks under lockdown over the coronavirus, extended a curfew through Sunday that will start each night at 8.00 pm.

"We will take steps immediately to make sure there will be peace and order," Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has a fraught relationship with the police, said with visible anger.

The curfew began Monday at 11.00 pm but New York was already suffering widespread looting, with rioters smashing storefronts on posh Fifth Avenue, pulling electronics from a Best Buy store and breaking into Macy's, the department store known for its iconic Christmas displays.

Protests each day have begun peacefully. Several thousands took to the streets Tuesday in Manhattan, kneeling and shouting "George Floyd, George Floyd."

Protester Nat Hooper, 27, an African-American bookseller, called demonstrations "our civic duty" and hoped that Trump would be voted out in November.

"We don't think he's a good representation of what Americans believe in or American ideals," he said.

Cav Manning, 54, who is also black, said the protests aimed at "making leaders listen."

"This isn't just about George Floyd, may he rest in peace. This is about all the black men before, all the black women, all the black children, any people feeling the knee of oppression," he said as he protested in the diverse Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Minneapolis was relatively calm but violence spread elsewhere with four officers shot overnight in St. Louis, a city with a history of racial tensions. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden told reporters protesters had been peaceful before a separate group of 200 showed up who "obviously had no intention of protesting, doing anything constructive" and threw fireworks and gasoline at officers.

"How can this be? Mr. Floyd was injured and was killed somewhere else, and they're tearing up cities all across the country," Hayden said. — with Laura Bonilla in New York

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 24, 2020 - 9:40am

Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta were among several US cities to announce curfews Saturday in a bid to stem violent anti-police protests breaking out across America.

A nighttime curfew was also implemented in Louisville, Kentucky as the United States continues to be rocked by demonstrators angry at the death of a black man during an arrest in Minneapolis on Monday.

George Floyd was handcuffed and died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparking the widespread protests against police brutality. — AFP

Photo: Demonstrators confront secret service police officers outside of the White House on May 30, 2020 in Washington DC, during a protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. Demonstrations are being held across the US after George Floyd died in police custody on May 25. Jose Luis Magana / AFP

September 24, 2020 - 9:40am

One police officer was shot in the US city of Louisville in protests after charges were filed against only one policeman involved in the fatal shooting in March of black woman Breonna Taylor, police says

A police spokeswoman confirms the incident to AFP, without offering further details.

The condition of the police officer was not immediately known, the local Fox affiliate WDRB reports. — AFP

August 30, 2020 - 9:32am

US President Donald Trump will travel next week to the Midwestern city where African-American Jacob Blake was shot and grievously wounded by a white policeman, the White House said Saturday.

Trump will go to Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement officials and view damage from unrest triggered by Blake's shooting last weekend, White House spokesman Judd Deere said. — AFP

July 5, 2020 - 11:35am

Demonstrators chanting "Black Lives Matter" exchange words with activists waving pro-Trump signs outside a fortified White House: America's Independence Day was marked in Washington on Saturday by confrontation and disunity. 

As it struggles to contain the coronavirus and reckons with waves of protesters demanding racial justice, the United States is deeply polarized, with the gulf seemingly insurmountable on a day usually marking patriotism and unity.

The one thing people outside the White House — surrounded by an imposing police cordon — and on the nearby National Mall seemed to be able to agree on was that this was not where they wanted America be. — AFP

June 28, 2020 - 4:13pm

One person was killed and another wounded in a shooting at a Black Lives Matter rally in the US state of Kentucky, police say.

The incident Saturday took place at Jefferson Square Park in the center of Louisville where protestors have gathered for weeks over the killing of African American woman Breonna Taylor. 

Her death in March helped fuel a campaign against racism and police brutality in the United States that has since spread across the globe. — AFP

June 28, 2020 - 12:20pm

Four men have been charged for attempting to remove a statue of former US President Andrew Jackson from outside the White House as part of anti-racism protests in the United States, authorities said on Saturday. 

US President Donald Trump, who is trying to position himself as a standard-bearer for "law and order" with less than five months to go before November's presidential election, also tweeted calls by police Saturday to identify more than a dozen other demonstrators who took part in the action. 

On Monday evening, a group of protesters attacked the statue of former President Johnson, a defender of slavery who led the United States from 1865 to 1869, which stands in Lafayette Park next to the White House. — AFP

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