Protests erupted in Minneapolis for the second day in a row on Wednesday, spilling into the early hours of Thursday morning, over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck.
The demonstrations turned violent in some areas following a daylong protest outside a police station where officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse attendees. Some people entered stores as night settled in, setting an AutoZone retail outlet on fire and carrying goods out of a vandalized Target. A Dollar Tree and a local supermarket also showed signs of damage and theft, the Associated Press reported.
One person was shot and killed at a pawn shop by the store’s owner as officials urged residents to go home, police said early Thursday.
“Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” the city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, told The Star Tribune.
“Yes, we’re reeling,” he continued. “We are reeling, and I understand the anger and pain, and we need the public’s help in keeping the peace tonight. We need that in order to get through this together.”
Frey had called for charges to be filed in Floyd’s death earlier in the day.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told Fox 9 News on Wednesday that a majority of the protesters had been peaceful, but said some had caused “significant property damage” and used Molotov cocktails.
As protests continued to rock Minneapolis on Wednesday, Jamar B. Nelson, a veteran community activist, told The New York Times that the Black community long had a fraught relationship with police. “The truth is we do not have a good history,” Nelson said. “The biggest complaint is that the community feels the Police Department is racist, bigoted and uncaring about the Black community.”
Star Tribune reporter Liz Sawyer said the flood of protesters makes clear the “tremendous amount of anger and pain” in Minneapolis over Floyd’s death.
“Several folks I talked to said they didn’t care whether people agreed with their methods,” including looting and destroying property, Sawyer tweeted.
“We have to get their attention somehow,” she quoted them as saying.
Four Minneapolis Police Department officers were fired Tuesday after a shocking video of Floyd’s arrest began to spread around the nation. In the clip, Floyd, who was detained on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill, can be seen pinned to the street as an officer presses his knee into his neck, saying: “Please man, I can’t breathe. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.”
His eyes later close and he stops speaking as onlookers shout at the police to help him. Officers later called an ambulance but Floyd died shortly after arriving at the hospital, the police department said in a statement on Monday. However, paramedics reported Floyd was unresponsive and without a pulse by the time he was en route to the hospital.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating Floyd’s death and will present its findings to the county attorney’s office for review. Arradondo said Tuesday that he asked the FBI to conduct a separate investigation into the matter.
President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that the FBI and the Justice Department were “already well into” an investigation, per his own request.
″I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement,” Trump tweeted. “My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”
Floyd’s death sparked immediate comparisons to the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was confronted and killed by two white men while jogging in Georgia earlier this year, as well as the 2014 killing of Eric Garner.
“I can’t breathe,” Garner, a Black man, had said repeatedly as a white New York City police officer put him in a chokehold while arresting him.
Protests over Floyd’s death also broke out in Los Angeles and Memphis on Wednesday. In Los Angeles, demonstrators blocked traffic on a large freeway and clashed with police. In Memphis, demonstrators held signs with messages including “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop killing Black people” and “Silence is violence” to protest the killings of Arbery and Floyd, as well as Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was recently killed during a police drug raid at her Kentucky home.
“We want the immediate arrest of the people who killed George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” Keara Akinmoladun, whose husband helped organize the Memphis demonstration, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “There’s a lot of awareness, but we want action.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz urged citizens to protest peacefully earlier Wednesday, saying residents’ feelings of “anger, anguish and disillusionment are justified.”
“If you plan to turn your pain into action by joining a public demonstration, please do so peacefully and safely to protect your own health and the health of the people around you,” Walz wrote on Twitter.
Later that night, however, the governor said the situation had evolved into an “extremely dangerous” confrontation and asked people to leave so paramedics could get to the scene.
Walz’s office told the Star Tribune late Wednesday around 60 State Patrol troopers had been called in to help quell the demonstrations.
Dominique Mosbergen and Hayley Miller contributed reporting.