WASHINGTON (AP) — Undeterred by curfews, protesters streamed back into the nation’s streets Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death and demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”
As more demonstrations began taking shape around the country, and cities including Washington prepared for another possible round of scattered violence after dark, the president amplified his hard-line calls of a day earlier, in which he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it.
“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”
One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing across a black chain-link fence. The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.
“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”
The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”
Protests ranged across the U.S., including New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, St. Paul, Minnesota, Columbia, South Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, where more than 1,000 people gathered in the afternoon to decry the killings of black people.
“This has to change,” said 39-year-old Aisxia Batiste, an out-of-work massage therapist in Orlando. “Something has to give. We’re done. This is the beginning of the end of something. It has to be.”
In New York, midtown Manhattan was pocked with battered storefronts after Monday’s protests. Macy’s flagship store was among those hit when crowds of people smashed windows and looted stores as they swept through the area. A police sergeant was hospitalized after being hit by a car in the Bronx, where people walked Tuesday between ransacked buildings and a burned-out car on the Grand Concourse, a commercial thoroughfare.
Police made nearly 700 arrests and Mayor Bill de Blasio extended an 8 p.m. curfew all week.
“We’re going to have a tough few days,” he warned, but added: “We’re going to beat it back.” He pleaded with community leaders to step forward and “create peace.”
More than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence. New York is not among them, and De Blasio has said he does not want the Guard. On Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called what happened in the city “a disgrace.”
“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany.
He said the mayor underestimated the problem, and the nation’s largest police force was not deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.
Tuesday marked the eight straight night of the protests, which began in Minneapolis, where Floyd died, and quickly spread across the country.
On Monday, scattered violence flared in multiple protests, including an officer who was shot and gravely wounded as police tried to disperse a crowd outside a Las Vegas hotel and casino, and four officers shot in St. Louis. They were expected to recover. In Philadelphia, officials said one person was killed trying to use explosives to open an ATM, and a gun shop owner fatally shot a would-be thief. A 19-year-old died of injuries suffered during looting.
About a dozen other deaths have been reported around the country over the past week. And nearly 8,000 people nationwide have been arrested for offenses such as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count by The Associated Press.
Some protesters framed the burgeoning movement as a necessity after a string of killings by police.
“It feels like it’s just been an endless cascade of hashtags of black people dying, and it feels like nothing’s really being done by our political leaders to actually enact real change,” said Christine Ohenzuwa, 19, who attended a peaceful protest at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul. “There’s always going to be a breaking point. I think right now, we’re seeing the breaking point around the country.”
“I live in this state. It’s really painful to see what’s going on, but it’s also really important to understand that it’s connected to a system of racial violence,” she said.
Meanwhile, governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats alike, rejected Trump’s threat to send in the military, with some saying troops would be unnecessary and others questioning whether the government has such authority and warning that such a step would be dangerous.
“Denver is not Little Rock in 1957, and Donald Trump is not President Eisenhower. This is a time for healing, for bringing people together, and the best way to protect civil rights is to move away from escalating violence,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, both Democrats, said in a statement, referring to Eisenhower’s use of troops to enforce school desegregation in the South.
A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the president is not rushing to send in the military and that his goal was to pressure governors to deploy more National Guard members.
Such use of the military would mark a stunning federal intervention rarely seen in modern American history.
Amid the protests, nine states and the District of Columbia held presidential primaries, including four that delayed their April contests because of the coronavirus outbreak. Joe Biden has been moving closer to formally clinching the Democratic presidential nomination.
In Washington, voting stations stayed open until 8 p.m., an hour past the city’s curfew. Voting was deemed essential, and city officials said voters would not be subject to arrest. Philadelphia moved its 6 p.m. curfew back to 8:30 p.m. to accommodate voting.
Minnesota, meanwhile, opened an investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a pattern of discrimination against minorities. Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes.
Chauvin has been charged with murder. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said prosecutors are working as fast as they can to determine if the three other officers at the scene should be charged too. All four have been fired.
Amid the protests, cities struggled to keep police in line and avoid instances of excessive force.
The police chief in Louisville, Kentucky, was fired after a restaurant owner was killed by police and National Guard members enforcing a curfew. In Richmond, the police chief said officers who used tear gas on a group of peaceful protesters would be disciplined. In Atlanta, six officers were charged after a video showed authorities dragging two young people from a car during protests.
Sullivan reported from Minneapolis. Associated Press journalists across the U.S. contributed to this report.
Source: Associated Press