Demonstrators outraged at the death of George Floyd at the hand of police in Minneapolis protested in major California cities Friday but the mostly peaceful marches were marred by vandalism, a shooting and clashes that injured several police officers.
Tear gas, flashbang grenades and rubber bullets were fired into a crowd that grew to about 1,000 protesters in downtown San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley. Demonstrators had temporarily shut down a five-lane section of U.S. 101, a major highway.
KPIX-TV reported that police retaliated after protesters smashed the windows of police cars and threw water bottles. One of the station’s reporters said he was struck by a hard plastic disk fired by police but was not injured.
A San Jose officer was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, said Officer Gina Tepoorten, a department spokeswoman. Police officers’ union spokesman Dustin DeRollo said the officer was punched in the head by protesters and knocked unconscious, while other media reports said the officer was struck by a thrown object.
Friday night, a sport utility vehicle backed into a group of demonstrators at Sixth and Santa Clara streets, striking at least two, before speeding away, and a Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy shot at the fleeing vehicle, the Mercury News of San Jose reported. There was no immediate word on the conditions of those struck by the car or whether anyone in the SUV was hit.
At least two officers were injured in clashes in Los Angeles, where hundreds of demonstrators wound through downtown for the third night in a row. Despite LAPD skirmish lines that tried to block them, dozens of demonstrators still managed to briefly shut down two freeways Friday night.
There were isolated scuffles with police. Several patrol cars had their windows smashed or were tagged with graffiti and at least two officers were left with minor injuries in clashes, including one who was struck by a bottle, police said.
Late at night, police declared an unlawful assembly and moved in on remaining protesters but they scattered and some smashed store windows, including a Starbucks, streaming through downtown with police behind them.
Earlier, Mayor Eric Garcetti started off his regular briefing about the coronavirus outbreak with emotional remarks about Floyd’s death.
“He was murdered in cold blood,” Garcetti said. He urged Los Angeles residents to protest peacefully but later told KNX-AM radio that he condemned people who were destroying the message of the peaceful protests.
“Causing more violence in the face of violence is always the wrong answer,” he said.
Hundreds of people gathered in Oakland and dozens briefly shut down Interstate 880 until they moved away but things became increasingly tense as protesters defaced buildings and smashed windows, and threw objects and fireworks at police, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Friday night, police declared an unlawful assembly and fired tear gas into a crowd. Some demonstrators poured milk or water into their stinging eyes, the paper said, while others later looted a Walgreens near City Hall.
Nearly 500 demonstrators protested in the state capital of Sacramento, gathering near a police station for several hours. Some shouted or cursed at riot-clad officers guarding the entrance but one man went down the line, patting officers on the shoulder and shaking their hands, while another stood inches from an officer and screamed: “Why are you killing us?” the Sacramento Bee reported.
The death of the 46-year-old Floyd, who was recorded on video pleading for air as an officer knelt on his neck, has shocked the country, including police officers who are usually inclined to withhold comment.
Police chiefs and police unions throughout the state have called it unjustifiable and excessive force.
Source: Associated Press