Protests erupted across the U.S. on Thursday following days of increasingly tense demonstrations in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck.
Floyd died on Monday after a police officer pinned him to the street while he repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” The shocking incident, captured on video, has prompted a nationwide outcry. The four officers involved were fired, but Floyd’s family, community leaders and protesters are calling for their arrest and an end to police violence.
Demonstrations rocked Minneapolis for a third night, leading to looting and violent clashes with police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets. One person was fatally shot. On Thursday, the governor called in the National Guard, a police station was set afire and state troopers arrested a CNN crew.
Protests, some of them violent, spread to other cities as well, reigniting rage over other incidents of police violence. Seven demonstrators were shot in Louisville, Kentucky.
Floyd’s brother, Philonese Floyd, stressed on CNN on Thursday that protests should be peaceful, but he said people were acting out because they are “torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing Black men die. Constantly, over and over again.”
“These officers, they need to be arrested right now. They need to be arrested and held accountable about everything because these people want justice right now,” he said. He called for the four officers to be “arrested, convicted of murder and given the death penalty.”
Increasingly strained protests spread in cities across the U.S., as shown in videos on social media.
In Minnesota, for the third consecutive night, groups rallied in St. Paul and in neighboring Minneapolis. Large groups massed at the intersection where Floyd was pinned and outside the Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct station.
The precinct station was breached by protesters Thursday night and set afire, along with nearby buildings, according to reports. Minneapolis police said the station had been evacuated.
Earlier Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard as the city braced for the night’s protests.
Groups also stood outside the home and government offices of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who will handle the investigation into whether to prosecute the officers. The cops have been identified as Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck; Thomas Lane; Tou Thao; and J. Alexander Kueng.
Meanwhile, in Louisville, Kentucky, where more than 500 people gathered to protest the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor, gunshots were reported just before 11:30 p.m. in the downtown area. At least seven people were shot, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department, with at least one in critical condition.
“There have been some arrests, but at this time we are not able to tell you how many as the situation is ongoing,” police spokesperson Alicia Smiley said in a statement to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Information on those arrests will be available tomorrow through court records of the arrests.”
Police did not fire their guns, she said.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was killed by police on March 13 when they entered her apartment with a drug warrant looking for someone else. Protesters had for several hours marched peacefully and chanted “No justice, no peace,” but the situation reportedly escalated when some in the crowd tried to flip a vehicle.
In New York, more than 70 people were arrested in Manhattan as hundreds protested police violence. Floyd’s death particularly struck a nerve in the city as it drew grim comparisons to the death of Eric Garner, a Black man whose final words before he died in police custody were “I can’t breathe.”
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told NBC News that hearing those words again was like “a recurring nightmare.”
Peaceful protests across Denver also escalated Thursday evening, after gunshots were fired near the Colorado State Capitol.
“We do believe that the shots were towards the Capitol, but we do not at this point have any correlation to the protest or the protesters,” Denver police spokesman Kurt Barnes told the Denver Post. No injuries were reported.
Police also fired tear gas and pepper spray to disperse hundreds of protesters on the Capitol lawn and on Interstate 25, where protesters blocked traffic.
Several hundred protesters, some carrying signs reading “Black lives matter,” marched through downtown Denver.
A video also appeared to show a car drive through a crowd of protesters downtown and turn to knock over a protester.
In California, a protest in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday grew fraught, leading to two police cars being vandalized and one demonstrator hurt, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In a statement to the newspaper, the Los Angles Police Department said, “We hear your anger and your pain. We will always facilitate freedom of speech. Period. All we ask is that protests are held in a safe and legal manner.”
A smaller protest was also held in Oakland on Thursday.
In Birmingham, Alabama, more than 100 people gathered to express their anger over Floyd’s death.
“We didn’t come here to be nice tonight. We didn’t come here to play around tonight. Hopefully we are here because we are tired of what’s happening,” Carlos Chaverst, one of the organizers, told local news site Al.com. “We should be fed up with seeing Black men and women being killed in the street by police.”
Peaceful protests in Columbus, Ohio, devolved into chaos Thursday night after people began throwing objects at police, prompting the officers to fire tear gas to push back crowds, NBC4i reported.
Protesters had chanted “Black lives matter” and “Say his name.”
The Ohio Statehouse was reportedly breached after windows were broken.
A demonstration in Phoenix also turned out several hundred people, who rallied around City Hall and marched to the state Capitol.
There, too, people were heard chanting “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace.”
Police declared the protest an unlawful assembly after 11 p.m. Thursday, the Arizona Republic reports, but more than 50 protesters stayed out past 12:30 a.m. Friday.
Local reporters shared footage of police equipped with riot gear and tear gas canisters. Zach Crenshaw of ABC15 reported that police fired rubber bullets and used pepper spray, and protesters threw water bottles and rocks back.
Local activist Jarrett Maupin, who helped organize the event, told the Arizona Republic that the protest had been a success.
“Things got a little rough there towards the end. The Capitol was our end game and we made it there,” Maupin said. “Our event was nonviolent.”
Marina Fang and Liza Hearon contributed reporting.