George Floyd Protests Spread as Minnesota Governor Pleads for Peace

May 30, 2020 Updated: May 31, 2020

Protests following Monday’s police custody death of George Floyd have spread to more cities across America, while the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with manslaughter and murder.

Demonstrations, often violent and involving destruction of property, have spread in recent days to places like Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago, with a man shot dead in Detroit, police cars battered in Atlanta, and skirmishes with police in New York City.

Criminal charges filed Friday morning against the former officer who held his knee for nearly 9 minutes on the neck of Floyd did nothing to stem the anger. Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a store.

“My family and I watched in absolute horror as the now infamous and horrifying video began to spread quickly throughout social media. What we saw on that tape left us shell shocked,” wrote Philonise Floyd, sister of the deceased, in a note on a fundraising campaign page.

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A Minneapolis officer kneels on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed man who was pleading that he could not breathe, in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. (Darnella Frazier via AP, File)

“As some officers knelt on his neck, other officers participated and watched; no one took any action to save my brother’s life. Those officers would continue to brutalize my brother until he died,” she continued.

An autopsy found that the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system, and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. It revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death.

Several hundred people protested near the White House on Friday, with videos on social media showing skirmishes breaking out between demonstrators and police. One confrontation showed a man taunting shield-bearing riot police, saying, “You’re scared of me, you’re intimidated by me, you’re a coward!” Others in the crowd, holding signs, chanted “Hey hey! Ho ho! These racist cops have got to go!”

Protests in New York City turned violent, with objects thrown at police, a service van set ablaze, and vehicles vandalized.

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A vandalized New York Police Department vehicle is seen after a protest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody, in New York City on May 30, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

In Portland, Oregon, protesters set fires, while authorities urged people to leave the downtown area, warning in a post on Twitter that, “It is not safe, it is dangerous, there is rioting, leave now.”

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office shared a photo of the damage done to the Multnomah Justice Center in downtown Portland, a building that is home to the county jail and police headquarters.

“This is a riot. It’s a full-on riot,” Mayor Ted Wheeler told NBC affiliate KGW. “We see people burning cars, we see people damaging businesses large and small, including some businesses I believe which are owned by local African American business owners. We’re seeing looting.”

In Minneapolis, police said shots had been fired at law enforcement officers during the protests but no one was injured. As the night dragged on, fires erupted across the city’s south side, including at a Japanese restaurant, a Wells Fargo bank, and an Office Depot. Many burned for hours, with firefighters again delayed in reaching them because areas weren’t secure.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz spoke to the media at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, appealing for calm as firefighters battled blazes set by rioters, local news outlet KIMT3 reported.

“This is not grieving, and this is not making a statement … this is life-threatening, dangerous to the most well-qualified forces to deal with this,” Walz said. “This is not about George’s death. This is about chaos being caused.”

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Protesters demonstrate outside a burning fast food restaurant, in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 29, 2020. (John Minchillo/AP Photo)

In a bid to quell the violence, Walz imposed a curfew, in force from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday, warning that police would enforce it and arrest people who don’t comply.

“It’s time to rebuild our community and that starts with safety in our streets,” Walz said in a release announcing the curfew.

“Thousands of Minnesotans have expressed their grief and frustration in a peaceful manner. But the unlawful and dangerous actions of others, under the cover of darkness, has caused irreversible pain and damage to our community. This behavior has compromised the safety of bystanders, businesses, lawful demonstrators, and first responders,” he continued.

“Now, we come together to restore the peace,” he added.

Walz acknowledged Saturday that, even with some 500 National Guardsmen, he didn’t have enough manpower to contain the chaos.

“We do not have the numbers,” Walz said. “We cannot arrest people when we are trying to hold ground.”

Walz said he was moving quickly to mobilize more than 1,000 more Guard members, for a total of 1,700, and was considering the potential offer of federal military police. But he warned that even that might not be enough, saying he expected another difficult night Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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