Peaceful protests sparked by anger over the police custody death of George Floyd again descended into furious riots after nightfall Monday in several U.S. cities, while the Trump administration vowed to mount a more forceful response to contain the chaos.
“We must never give in to anger or hatred. If malice or violence reigns, then none of us is free,” President Donald Trump said at a Monday press conference, at which he urged mayors and governors to “establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.”
The death of Floyd, a black man who died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest last week, sparked widespread outrage. Chauvin was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder, though that did little to temper the anger.
The initially peaceful protests, expressing grief and anger over police brutality, have in many cases devolved into riots. Protests continued on June 1 in dozens of cities around the nation, including Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Louisville, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, with occasional looting, arson, and vandalizing.
The unrest in Minneapolis, where Floyd died during an arrest last week, seemed to stabilize on Monday, the same day his brother made an impassioned plea for peace, saying destruction is “not going to bring my brother back at all.”
The Minneapolis National Guard posted a late-night message on Twitter, saying “it was a quiet night for our service members. Thank you to everyone who peacefully protested and stayed safe at home.”
It was a quiet night for our service members. Thank you to everyone who peacefully protested and stayed safe at home. Our Airmen and Soldiers ran nearly two dozen missions across the Twin Cities last night. pic.twitter.com/00fFSs96fr
— MN National Guard (@MNNationalGuard) June 2, 2020
In New York City, nonviolent demonstrations were punctuated by people smashing storefront windows near Rockefeller Center and breaching the doors into the storied Macy’s store on 34th Street, littering parts of Manhattan with broken glass. A vehicle plowed through a group of law enforcement officers at a demonstration in Buffalo, injuring at least two.
Demonstrations erupted in Philadelphia, where hundreds of protesters spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city; Nashville, where more than 60 National Guard soldiers put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of Tennessee’s state Capitol to honor Floyd; and Atlanta, where police fired tear gas at demonstrators.
Legendary civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District that lies at the heart of Metro Atlanta, urged demonstrators to protest in a non-violent way.
“To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness,” Lewis said in a May 30 statement, but insisted that “rioting, looting, and burning is not the way.”
“Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve,” he said in a statement.
Trump, in his remarks Monday, said that if local authorities were unable to quell the violence, federal troops might be brought in to restore order.
“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said.
“Right now, America needs creation, not destruction; cooperation, not contempt; security, not anarchy,” Trump said in a speech on Saturday.
“And there will be no anarchy. Civilization must be cherished, defended, and protected,” he added.
According to a count compiled by The Associated Press, as of Monday, at least 4,400 people have been arrested nationwide in connection with the unrest that was sparked by Floyd’s death.
The several thousand arrests have been for such offenses as blocking highways, theft, and assault.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.