Officers in Minneapolis use aggressive tactics against protesters

Daniella Silva and Alicia Victoria Lozano and Dennis Romero and Andrew Blankstein and Tom Winter and Phil McCausland

MINNEAPOLIS — Tear gas and tension filled the air Saturday night as police escalated their use of force against people protesting the killing of George Floyd.

On the fifth day of protests in Minneapolis, many remained defiant and passionate, ignoring a curfew that went into effect at 8 p.m. Saturday. Law enforcement officers responded with an escalating show of force in an attempt to disperse otherwise peaceful crowds.

A wall of Minnesota State Patrol officers warned the large crowd of protesters after the 8 p.m. state-mandated curfew to disperse or face arrests and began shooting tear gas and advancing into the crowd, using pepper spray and filling the streets with smoke.

“Even though it’s past curfew, we’re still out here because they’re paying attention to us,” said Hoonday Ahmed, 18. “That’s why we’re out there. We’re trying to send a message.”

People were seen running, throwing up and crying as police fanned out, using tear gas and pepper spray to corral demonstrators, which also hit some news reporters in a chaotic scene. Shots rang out in the distance.

Across the country, demonstrators took to the streets, some demanding justice for Floyd and others fueling chaos, burning businesses and facing off against law enforcement officers. Saturday night's protest capped a weekend of more than 100 protests, rallies and vigils.

Vehicles were torched in both New York and Los Angeles, and at the White House, protesters pushed security barricades and could be seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles. Twelve states and the District of Columbia activated the National Guard to help quell the unrest.

Violence also erupted in Texas, Tennessee, Florida and Colorado.

Mayors issued curfews and pleaded with residents to stay home, but thousands of protesters took to the streets and faced off against police in riot gear. Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver and Cleveland were among the cities with curfews.

In a rare move, the Los Angeles Police Department mobilized its entire force Saturday. All officers, special units and detectives were deployed into the field to show as much police presence as possible.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the California National Guard would deploy overnight to Southern California, where businesses along Melrose Avenue and other popular shopping destinations were looted.

A citywide curfew was imposed Saturday starting at 8 p.m. but tensions continued into the night.

'Wanting to be heard'

Earlier in the day, demonstrations in Minneapolis were largely peaceful, with people chanting “Say his name” and “George Floyd” while others carried signs, some bearing the words, “Am I next?”

Maya Ulrich, a 20-year-old demonstrator, said she was protesting “systemic issues of racism” and looking for “immediate action” against the four police officers involved in Floyd’s death.

Saturday was the fourth day Ulrich and her friends demonstrated, she said.

Floyd, who was black, was killed Monday after being arrested for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Video footage showed ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd cried for his mother and said he couldn’t breathe.

Three other officers watched as Floyd gasped his final breaths. Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired.

“I’m just tired of our people getting targeted,” said Ciara McClaine, 29, in Minneapolis on Saturday. “I get scared when any male members of my family go out. I get scared when I see the police. I get nervous, I panic, because I don’t know if I’m going to go home to my kid or my loved ones.”

At one point on Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators knelt and collectively said the names of people who died at the hands of police: Eric Garner, Denzel Brown, Tamir Rice and more. Many of those gathered in Minneapolis on Saturday were peaceful, a stark contrast to what seen in the streets Thursday and Friday nights, when property was destroyed, police cars vandalized and banks and a post office and police precinct house were engulfed in flames.

“I wanted to come out and show my support against the injustice and support this movement and be part of history,” said Arita Eyo, 25. “I don’t stand for any damaging of property or businesses or looting, but at the same time I understand the built-up frustration and the need and wanting to be heard.”

Unrest around the country

While some of the demonstrations remained peaceful on Saturday, others did not.

Protesters jumped onto police vehicles in New York City and marched down main Brooklyn thoroughfares. Some stores were looted or destroyed, and cars burned on city streets. Unrest spread to all five boroughs and more than 100 people were arrested.

Three people were charged with attempting to use Molotov cocktails to damage police cars in Brooklyn, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

In Philadelphia, peaceful protests took a turn after a car was set on fire and a crowd tried to gain access to a municipal building. By nightfall, a mix-used building near the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood was ablaze. Thirteen police officers were injured, including one who was run over by a car.

At the White House, protesters pushed security barricades and could be seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles.

In Miami, protesters were met with tear gas as some threw items at police vehicles. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez ordered a 10 p.m. curfew. Police in Tampa, Florida, responding to the looting of a Mobil gas station were met with rocks and bottles, police said.

A deputy in Jacksonville, Florida, was stabbed in the neck by demonstrator, Sheriff Mike Williams said.

In Denver, protesters stretched out face-first on the ground, hands behind their backs, and chanted, "I can't breathe," in a mass recreation of Floyd's last minutes, according to video posted on Twitter by the Colorado Times Recorder.

Amid demonstrations in Nashville, Tennessee, a courthouse was ablaze.

And, in Austin, Texas, demonstrators gathered in the street in front of officers in riot gear. A photo showed a protester holding a sign that read "your uniform is not a license to kill."

Daniella Silva reported from Minneapolis, Alicia Victoria Lozano from Los Angeles and Dennis Romero from San Diego.

CORRECTION (May 31, 2020, 8:15 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of a black man killed by police in 2014. He is Eric Garner, not Gardner. In addition, the name of a black boy killed by police in 2014 was misspelled. He is Tamir Rice, not Tamara. And the article misstated the number of boroughs in New York City. There are five, not six.