A day of frustration turns into a night of fury as protests spread across the U.S.
A largely peaceful day of protests descended into a night of chaos, destruction and sporadic violence overnight Saturday as tens of thousands of people poured into streets across the United States to express anger and heartbreak over the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police.
On Sunday morning, the authorities were still sorting through the smoldering wreckage as the vast scope of the unrest came into sharper focus.
Squad cars had been set on fire in Philadelphia, stores were looted in Los Angeles, police officers in Richmond, Va., were injured and hospitalized, and at least one person was killed in Indianapolis, where a deputy police chief said the department had received so many reports of shots fired that they had lost count.
As protests spread from coast to coast, mayors in more than two dozen cities declared curfews — 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.
For more than two months, millions of people have been ordered to stay in their homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the country. And the measures put in place to combat the virus have led to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with 40 million people out of work.
Careful plans to reopen shuttered shops and ease restrictions in locked-down cities have been thrown into disarray by the protesters’ outpouring of anguish.
Despite images of fires lighting up the night sky and lawlessness that threatened to overwhelm many of the nation’s police forces, many protesters were not looking for physical confrontation, but rather venting deep frustration and calling for change. “I’m not here to fight someone,” said Eldon Gillet, 40, who was on the streets in Brooklyn. “I’m here to fight a system.”
On Sunday morning, fires were still smoldering outside those gates and in cities across a divided, disoriented nation.
From the high-end shops of Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles to Times Square in New York City — and nearly all major cities in between — fires raged, hundreds of people were arrested and stores were looted in a night convulsed by often destructive demonstrations.
Here is the latest from around the nation:
In Indianapolis, one person was killed and three others were injured when a gunman fired shots at a protest, the police said. “Enough is enough,” said Police Chief Randal Taylor at an overnight news conference as sirens blared all around him. “Indianapolis, we are better than this. Downtown is not safe at this time. Residents who do not live in the downtown area, we’re asking to please vacate the area.”
In Chicago, protesters scuffled with the police, burning at least one flag and marching toward the Trump International Hotel and Tower before dispersing. About 3,000 people took part in the protests, according to local news reports. Some vandalized police vehicles and left spray-painted buildings in their wake.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric M. Garcetti issued a curfew and Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the National Guard. There were clashes with the police throughout the day and into the night, and firefighters raced to put out fires in shops that had been looted and set ablaze. Mr. Garcetti said the simultaneous protests and coronavirus pandemic represented “the heaviest moment I’ve experienced as a resident of Los Angeles” since the 1992 riots that broke out after four white police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, a black man.
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed brought in a curfew as demonstrators arrived outside her home to protest. Scores of businesses were looted in the Bay Area and a fire was set at a shopping mall, according to the police. Police Chief Bill Scott pleaded for people to go home. “Tearing down a business that people have spent their lives to build — if you’re a San Franciscan, is that what you want?”
In Florida, Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County ordered a countywide curfew beginning at 11 p.m. after police cars and other vehicles were set ablaze near the Miami Police Department headquarters. In Jacksonville a police officer was “stabbed or slashed in the neck and is currently in the hospital,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said at a news conference.
In Washington, the National Guard was deployed outside the White House, where chanting crowds clashed with the Secret Service and attacked a Fox News reporter. Fires were set in Lafayette Park, just steps from the White House.
In Philadelphia, at least 13 police officers were injured as protesters set cars on fire, broke windows at City Hall and ransacked stores across the center of the city. Mayor Jim Kenney declared a mandatory citywide curfew starting at 8 p.m.
In New York City, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for a third day, gathering at marches in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and outside Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. Late afternoon on Saturday, protesters in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn confronted the police in a series of street melees, hurling empty bottles and pieces of debris at officers, who responded with billy clubs and pepper spray. A video showed a police car driving into a crowd.
In Richmond, Va., two police officers at the State Capitol were hospitalized with leg injuries after being struck by a baseball bat and a beer bottle, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Earlier, the police fired tear gas at protesters, some of whom set off fireworks and smashed windows.
With a nation on edge — ravaged by a pandemic, hammered by economic collapse, divided over lockdowns and even face masks, and continuing to be convulsed by racial discord — President Trump’s instinct has been to look for someone to fight.
As several cities erupted in street protests, some of which resulted in clashes with the police, he made no appeal for calm.
Instead, in a series of tweets and comments to reporters on Saturday, he blamed Democrats for the unrest, called on “Liberal Governors and Mayors” to get “MUCH tougher” on crowds, threatened to intervene with “the unlimited power of our Military” and suggested that his supporters mount a counterdemonstration.
The turmoil came to Mr. Trump’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting the death of George Floyd and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House.
Most were peaceful, chanting, “Black lives matter” and “No peace, no justice.” But some ignited small fires, set off firecrackers, and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and U.S. Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray. As police officers moved to secure the block, a Chevy Suburban was engulfed in a plume of black smoke and trees nearby were on fire.
Mr. Trump’s statements did little to tamp down the outrage. Writing on Twitter, he called demonstrators outside the White House “professionally managed so-called ‘protesters’” and suggested that his supporters would meet them. “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, released a statement early Sunday morning appealing for calm.
“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us,” he wrote. “We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.”
Protesters who took to the streets on Saturday in Minneapolis, the epicenter of the demonstrations, met a more determined response from police officers and National Guard troops.
Soon after an 8 p.m. curfew took effect in the city, the police began arresting protesters and firing tear gas and other projectiles toward crowds, and the National Guard used a helicopter to dump water on a burning car.
The response reflected a desire by the authorities to halt the violent protests that have spread nationwide since George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after being pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Yet there were still reports of violence and destruction: a fire on the roof of a shopping mall, a person who shot at officers, and a group of people throwing items at the police. But state officials said around 11 p.m. that they were encouraged by the smaller crowds and apparent decrease in damage. Much of the city was empty shortly after midnight.
One person was killed and three others were injured when a gunman fired shots at a protest in Indianapolis early Sunday, bringing to at least four the number of people killed since Wednesday in violence connected with the protests.
The authorities were also investigating a possible connection with the shooting death of a federal officer in California. The officer, a contract security guard for the Department of Homeland Security, was fatally shot outside a federal courthouse in Oakland on Friday night as demonstrations in the city turned violent.
Ken Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting deputy secretary, called the shooting an act of “domestic terrorism,” but the state’s governor cautioned against connecting the shooting with the protests.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement that “No one should rush to conflate this heinous act with the protests last night.”
Elsewhere, people were killed when once-peaceful protests descended into violence.
The authorities in Minneapolis on Friday identified Calvin L. Horton Jr., 43, as the victim in a shooting outside a pawnshop that was looted on Wednesday.
In Detroit on Friday, a 21-year-old man was shot to death while sitting in his car near Cadillac Square as hundreds of protesters swarmed the streets. The police said the gunman might have known and targeted the victim and used the chaos of the demonstrations as a cover.
And early Saturday in St. Louis, a man was killed after protesters blocked Interstate 44, set fires and tried to loot a FedEx truck. The man was killed, the police said, when he became caught between the truck’s two trailers as the driver tried to wend his way through the protest.
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Peter Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Tess Felder, Russell Goldman, Simon Romero and Marc Santora.