Demonstrations and destruction. Confrontation and curfews. America endures another night of protest.
In Washington, the police fired tear gas at protesters who set fires near the White House. In Minneapolis, a tanker truck sped into a crowd on a highway overpass as hundreds of demonstrators scattered for safety. And in New York and other cities, a tense mood followed a night of street battles, burned cars and hundreds of arrests.
The United States remained a tinderbox of emotion, anger and spasms of violence on Sunday, the sixth day of nationwide unrest since the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police. The death of the man, George Floyd, last week in Minneapolis set off days of protracted protests.
In Santa Monica, Calif., looters shoved aside barricades to vandalize and ransack stores Sunday, while in nearby Huntington Beach protesters against police brutality clashed with right-wing groups. And in Louisville, a tense confrontation in the middle of a crowded street was partially defused when a black woman stepped forward and offered a policeman in riot gear a hug. They embraced for nearly a minute.
Crowds ran through the streets breaking windows blocks from the White House, where a demonstration on Friday night had so unnerved the Secret Service that agents abruptly rushed President Trump to an underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks.
Philadelphia announced a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew after a day of protests and looting there, while Washington’s mayor set one for 11 p.m. and Arizona’s governor declared a state of emergency and ordered a nightly 8 p.m. curfew that he said would be in place for a week.
At least 75 cities have seen protests in recent days, and the number of mayors and governors imposing curfews — already more than two dozen — continued to grow. It is the first time so many local leaders have simultaneously issued such orders in the face of civic unrest since 1968, after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Saturday, hundreds of people were arrested across the country as clashes erupted between protesters and the police in dozens of states. In some cities, the authorities appeared to fire rubber bullets and other projectiles with little or no provocation. In New York City, two police vehicles surged forward into a crowd of demonstrators, some of whom were blocking the street and pelting the cars with debris.
National Guard soldiers were posted in Atlanta and Minneapolis and California moved troops into Los Angeles.
Two Atlanta police officers were fired for using excessive force during a protest.
Two Atlanta police officers were fired on Sunday, one day after videos emerged showing them using stun guns on two black college students and then dragging them out of their car.
Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, announced the dismissal of the two officers, whom she did not name, during a news conference on Sunday. She said their actions had constituted “excessive force.”
Ms. Bottoms said three other officers who were involved in the arrests had been reassigned to desk duty while the department reviews their actions.
“It was disturbing on many levels, the least of not which was that there clearly was an excessive use of force,” Ms. Bottoms said. “We understand that our officers are working very long hours under an enormous amount of stress, but we also understand that the use of excessive force is never acceptable.”
Ms. Bottoms said she had reviewed police body camera footage of the confrontation and that it should be released immediately. The episode was broadcast live on local television on Saturday night, showing a group of officers stopping a man and woman in their car near downtown Atlanta roughly 45 minutes after a curfew went into effect at 9 p.m. It was unclear what prompted the police to stop the car.
Chief Erika Shields of the Atlanta Police Department condemned the actions of the officers, saying that the two students had been “manhandled” and that the episode had only underscored the fear and wariness minorities have of the police.
“I am genuinely sorry,” Chief Shields said. “This is not who we are. This is not what we’re about.”
The actions of the Atlanta officers came amid intensifying scrutiny of how law enforcement was responding to demonstrators.
In New York City, two police S.U.V.s plowed into protesters on Saturday evening. In Salt Lake City, officers in riot gear trying to clear onlookers shoved an older man with a cane to the ground. And in Minneapolis, a video appeared to show officers yelling at people on their porches to get inside and firing paint canisters at them when they did not. “Light them up,” one officer said.
At a religious event on Sunday, the Houston police chief delivered an emotional, sermon-style speech after days of at-times violent protests in the city where George Floyd grew up, denouncing police brutality, evoking Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey and saying those turning demonstrations destructive were doing “Satan’s work.”
The chief, Art Acevedo, who has marched with demonstrators and has called for charges to be filed against the four officers in Minneapolis, took off his mask at one point and pumped his arm as those assembled in their vehicles during the event honked their horns in support.
Chief Acevedo was the latest of several police chiefs in cities across the country to attend demonstrations this week, though the fact that he addressed protesters in a speech was notable.
Standing next to Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, the chief said that he did not care what people thought of him speaking frankly. “I know my God put me in this position not to keep my job but to do my job,” he said.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said that no one had been struck by the truck, although some protesters told local media that they had seen people with injuries. The police said the driver was “inciting” the peaceful protesters, and that he had been arrested and treated at a hospital for non-life threatening injuries
As the tanker truck came to a stop, demonstrators who had just sprinted from its path swarmed back toward it and pulled the driver out of the cab, according to videos from the scene. As people ran toward the driver, several protesters shouted for them to not hurt him and tried to create a buffer zone.
The confrontation took place on Interstate 35, which had been partly closed to traffic because of the protest, and the police said they were working with transportation officials to determine how the truck had gotten onto the highway.
“I don’t know the motives of the driver at this time, but at this point in time, to not have tragedy and many deaths is simply an amazing thing,” Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota said at a news conference. He called video of the episode “horrifying.”
The protest had been peaceful and well-organized; the Department of Public Safety had tweeted updates about the group’s location and said its officers were working to keep the demonstrators safe.
Trump is heard, but not seen, on a simmering Sunday.
A combative President Trump on Sunday berated Democrats for not being tough enough on violent protesters and attributed the turmoil roiling the nation to radical leftists.
Spurning advice from some campaign advisers to deliver a nationally televised address, Trump instead spent Sunday out of sight.
But he kept on tweeting.
“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,” he wrote. Addressing his presumptive Democratic presidential opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., he added: “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!”
The president also said his administration “will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” employing a shorthand for “anti-fascist.” But antifa is a movement of activists who dress in black and call themselves anarchists, not an organization with a clear structure that can be penalized under law. Moreover, American law applies terrorist designations to foreign entities, not domestic groups.
While Mr. Trump has been a focus of anger, particularly in the crowds in Washington, aides repeatedly have tried to explain to him that the protests were not only about him, but about broader, systemic issues related to race. Privately, Mr. Trump’s advisers complained about his tweets, acknowledging that they were pouring fuel on an already incendiary situation.
“Those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
Mass protests that have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases.
More than 100,000 Americans have already died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. People of color have been particularly hard hit, with rates of hospitalizations and deaths among black Americans far exceeding those of whites.
While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus.
The protests are occurring as many states have warily begun reopening after weeks of stay-at-home orders.
In Los Angeles, where demonstrations led to the closing of virus testing sites on Saturday, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the protests could become so-called “super-spreader events” that can lead to an explosion of secondary infections. And Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, expressed concern that his state would see a spike in cases in about two weeks, which is about how long it takes for symptoms to emerge after someone is infected.
Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission. In addition, many of the demonstrators were wearing masks.
As President Trump painted the National Guard as key to restoring order and taunted Democratic governors and mayors for not calling out the troops, the generals in charge of troops in three states said on Sunday afternoon that they had been only in support roles and had not used any force to put down the civil unrest.
The leaders of the Minnesota, Georgia and Colorado National Guards made clear that while troops had probably had a deterrent effect, the bulk of the credit for containing the violence went to local police officers. National Guard forces have been used mostly to secure buildings, allowing more police officers to move to the front lines, they said.
“Our purpose is to allow our local law enforcement professionals to do their jobs,” said Gen. Jon Jensen, the leader of Minnesota’s National Guard. “We do that by relieving them of items like infrastructure security.”
The forces in Minnesota and Georgia are armed, but the Colorado troops have only nonlethal weaponry. The generals did not describe under what conditions they would use force, only that they would be proportional and used in self-defense.
General Jensen said he had requested additional military police battalions from the National Guard forces of neighboring states, but said he would not recommend the Minnesota governor request regular Army forces for that job, as Mr. Trump has offered.
Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden Jr., the adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, expressed dismay that his forces had to be called out for a domestic civil unrest mission.
“We in America should not get used to or accept uniformed service members of any variety having to be put in a position where they are having to secure people inside the United States of America,” General Carden said. “While we are honored to do it, this is a sign of the times that we have to do better as a country.”
Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia called the looters “anarchists” at a midday news conference, hours before all retail stores in Philadelphia were closed on Sunday afternoon. For a second night, a citywide curfew was imposed, set for 6 p.m.
The peaceful protesters’ message about racism and use of force by the police “in no way should be diminished by anarchists and others who tried to cause chaos in our city last night,” Mr. Kenney said at the news conference, adding that the instigators “did a great disservice to the many others who chose to speak out forcefully against institutional racism and violence at the hands of the police.”
Streets in the Center City business district were closed starting at noon to allow cleanup from the previous night’s protests. Mass transit service was curtailed.
Pennsylvania joined several states that moved to make it easier to activate the National Guard this weekend, and the city, along with suburban Montgomery County, asked for help from the Guard on Sunday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Protests spread to London and Berlin.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London on Sunday afternoon and marched toward the United States Embassy, the most visible sign so far of popular support overseas for the protests across the U.S. against police killings of black people.
Holding signs and clapping their hands, the protesters gathered in the square in defiance of stay-at-home restrictions in effect across Britain to fight the coronavirus pandemic. They chanted “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter,” and “No justice, no peace,” before crossing the Thames to march peacefully to the embassy.
The protest march on Sunday echoed one on Saturday in the Peckham district of South London. Another London march is planned for next Sunday.
Several hundred protesters rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on Sunday, holding up signs saying “Justice for George Floyd” and “Stop killing us,” Reuters reported.
A disaster is declared in Texas, while in Florida, reopenings are delayed.
As cities and states brace for more demonstrations in the coming days, the authorities have responded by calling in more resources and readjusting previously held plans.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Sunday, an action that enables him to designate federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers. The Republican governor, who activated the Texas National Guard a day earlier, issued the disaster order after protests in the state’s major cities touched off confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement.
“As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss,” Mr. Abbott said in announcing the disaster declaration. “Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said. “However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive.”
And in South Florida, Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County postponed the planned reopening of beaches following the lockdown because of the pandemic. Miami-Dade beaches had been scheduled to open on Monday.
“The beaches will remain closed until the curfew order is lifted,” Mr. Gimenez said in a statement on Sunday. He cited an emergency order he signed on Saturday imposing a countywide curfew after a small group of protesters set police cars on fire outside the Miami Police Department’s downtown headquarters.
The beach reopenings would have involved a significant police presence. Condominium pools and hotels in the county will be allowed to reopen on Monday as planned.
Largely peaceful demonstrations take place in Austin after an official protest is called off.
Hundreds of protesters returned to the streets of downtown Austin on Sunday in what were described as largely peaceful demonstrations after sporadic looting and confrontations between police and protesters the previous day.
Sunday’s gatherings took place even after the Austin Justice Coalition canceled plans for an official demonstration. Organizers said they had halted the plans because they were worried about the safety of participants and because protests were being co-opted and made violent by people who were not black.
One woman who attended the gathering on Sunday said she had been pepper-sprayed by the police, and the authorities reported a possible looting incident in an outlying shopping center. But the demonstrations were relatively calm compared with Saturday, when protesters blocked traffic on I-35, set fire to several parked cars and looted businesses on Sixth Street.
Carrying placards with inscriptions such as “Black Futures Matter” and “End Racism,” the demonstrators started out at the State Capitol, marched to city hall several blocks to the south and later returned to the Capitol.
“It’s been peaceful so far,” said Sgt. Victor Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said in a Facebook video that on Saturday night, white people had been “burning stuff up in the name of Black Lives Matter” and that there were rumors that white provocateurs would try to hijack Sunday’s demonstration.
“You are using black pain, and you are using fake outrage in the name of Black Lives Matter to go deface and destroy property, which we would then get the blame for,” Mr. Moore said.
“To those people, to those agitators, we see you, we know who you are, and we’re not going to let you co-opt and colonize this movement like you’ve done everything else.”
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Peter Baker, Julian Barnes, Johanna Barr, Katie Benner, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Chris Cameron, Shaila Dewan, Johnny Diaz, Caitlin Dickerson, Nicholas Fandos, Tess Felder, Ben Fenwick, Manny Fernandez, Russell Goldman, Maggie Haberman, Rebecca Halleck, Zach Johnk, Steve Lohr, Patricia Mazzei, Christopher Mele, David Montgomery, Elian Peltier, Roni Caryn Rabin, Rick Rojas, Simon Romero, Marc Santora, Charlie Savage, Neil Vigdor, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.