‘Absolute Chaos’ in Minneapolis as Protests Grow Across U.S.


Minnesota’s high officers acknowledged early Saturday morning that they’d underestimated the destruction that protesters in Minneapolis had been able to inflicting as a newly issued curfew did little to cease individuals from burning buildings and turning town’s streets right into a smoky battleground.

“Quite candidly, right now, we do not have the numbers,” Mr. Walz said. “We cannot arrest people when we’re trying to hold ground because of the sheer size, the dynamics and the wanton violence that’s coming out there.”

State officials said that a series of errors and misjudgments — including the Minneapolis police abandoning a precinct on Thursday that protesters overtook and burned — had allowed demonstrators to create what Mr. Walz called “absolute chaos.”

Gunshots rang out near a different police precinct and flames streamed from businesses over several city blocks — a gas station, a post office, a bank, a restaurant — as residents asked where the police and firefighters had gone.

“There’s simply more of them than us” Mr. Walz said of the protesters.

The governor vowed that more Guard troops would be deployed and that the authorities would not let the destruction continue. Even so, state officials did not show much optimism that the demonstrations would stop, and Mr. Walz did not rule out the possibility of bringing in the U.S. military.

Commissioner John Harrington of the state’s Department of Public Safety said the police were preparing to be at the center of an “international event” on Saturday, pledging to “restore order” on the same Minneapolis block that was burning as he spoke. Mr. Harrington said he expected the largest crowds the state had ever seen.

Paul E. Gazelka, the Republican majority leader of the State Senate, told the KARE 11 news channel that he was frustrated the police had not acted more swiftly to clear the streets.

“You cannot allow anarchy,” he said. “You cannot allow this lawlessness to continue.”

The protests on Friday had largely been peaceful until nightfall, when people began setting fire to vehicles and buildings and launching fireworks toward the police, who in recent days have fired projectiles and used pepper spray to keep people at bay.

“You’re not getting back at the police officer that tragically killed George Floyd by looting a town,” Mr. Frey said. “You’re not getting back at anybody.”

Demonstrators in many other cities, including New York, also gathered to voice their anger:

The former Minneapolis police officer who was seen on video using his knee to pin down George Floyd, who died shortly after, was arrested and charged with murder, the authorities announced on Friday.

The former officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, said. An investigation into the other three officers who were present at the scene on Monday was continuing, he said.

Mr. Floyd’s relatives said in a statement that they were disappointed by the decision not to seek first-degree murder charges. Mr. Floyd, 46, died on Monday after pleading “I can’t breathe” while Mr. Chauvin pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck, in an encounter that was captured on video.

Third-degree murder does not require an intent to kill, according to the Minnesota statute, only that the perpetrator caused someone’s death in a dangerous act “without regard for human life.” Charges of first- and second-degree murder require prosecutors to prove, in almost all cases, that the perpetrator made a decision to kill the victim.

Mr. Chauvin was also charged with second-degree manslaughter, a charge that requires prosecutors to prove he was so negligent as to create an “unreasonable risk,” and consciously took the chance that his actions would cause Mr. Floyd to be severely harmed or die.

Camille J. Gage, 63, an artist and musician who joined the protests, said she was relieved that Mr. Chauvin had been charged. “How can anyone watch that video and think it was anything less?” she said. “Such blatant disregard for another living soul.”

The developments came after a night of chaos in which protesters set fire to a police station in Minneapolis, the National Guard was deployed to help restore order, and President Trump injected himself into the mix with tweets that appeared to threaten violence against protesters.

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, a Democrat, expressed solidarity with the protesters during a news conference on Friday, but said that a return to order was needed to lift up the voices of “those who are expressing rage and anger and those who are demanding justice” and “not those who throw firebombs.”

A lawyer for Mr. Chauvin’s wife, Kellie, said that she was devastated by Mr. Floyd’s death and expressed sympathy for his family and those grieving his loss. The case has also led Ms. Chauvin to seek a divorce, the lawyer, Amanda Mason-Sekula, said in an interview on Friday night.

The president gave his first extensive remarks on the protests later on Friday at the White House, declaring that “we can’t allow a situation like happened in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos. It’s very important, I believe, to the family, to everybody, that the memory of George Floyd be a perfect memory.”

Addressing his earlier Twitter comments, Mr. Trump said, “The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters. They hurt so badly what is happening.”

A demonstration turned destructive in Atlanta on Friday night, as hundreds of protesters took to the streets, smashing windows and clashing with the police.

They gathered around Centennial Olympic Park, the city’s iconic tourist destination. People jumped on police cars. Some climbed atop a large red CNN sign outside the media company’s headquarters and spray-painted messages on it. Others threw rocks at the glass doors of the Omni Hotel and shattered windows at the College Football Hall of Fame, where people rushed in and emerged with branded fan gear.

Jay Clay, 19, an Atlanta resident and graphic designer, watched the protests from across a street with a mixture of curiosity and solidarity.

“After all this injustice and prejudice, people get fed up,” Mr. Clay said. “I wanted to come down and check it out. But this feels like it’s getting out of hand.”

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pleaded for calm as the demonstrations unfolded.

“It’s enough. You need to go home,” she said. “We are all angry. This hurts. This hurts everybody in this room. But what are you changing by tearing up a city? You’ve lost all credibility now. This is not how we change America. This is not how we change the world.”

Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also spoke at the news conference, invoking her father’s legacy.

“Violence in fact creates more problems. It is not a solution,” Ms. King said. She said she felt and understood the anger of protesters but added, “There are people who would try to incite a race war in this country. Let’s not fall into their hands and into their trap. There’s another way.”

As the protests went on, police officers in riot gear were gathering. By 9:30 p.m., tear gas canisters were launched, and a wave of protesters ran back toward the park.

Tensions flared in New York for the second night in a row as thousands of protesters stormed the perimeter of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, trading projectiles of plastic water bottles, debris and tear gas and mace with police officers.

The protest had begun peacefully Friday afternoon, with hundreds chanting “Black lives matter” and “We want justice” in downtown Manhattan. But the demonstrations took a turn in Brooklyn, where officers made between 50 and 100 arrests, a senior police official said.

Officers with twist-tie handcuffs hanging from their belts stood next to Department of Corrections buses and squad cars with lights flashing, encircling the perimeter. A police helicopter and a large drone whirred in the hot air overhead.

Protesters were later seen throwing water bottles, an umbrella and other objects at officers, who responded by shooting tear gas into the crowd.

As that crowd scattered, protesters gathered in the streets in the nearby Fort Greene neighborhood, continuing to chant at the police. An empty patrol van was set ablaze, then pillaged, as people pried the doors off the hinges. Fireworks were thrown into the burned shell of the vehicle. Scribbled on the hood was the phrase “dead cops.”

By 10 p.m., riot police had descended on the neighborhood. Another police official had described the scene in parts of the borough as “out of control.”

Earlier in the evening, several hundred people filled Foley Square near the city’s criminal courthouses. After a man in a green sweatshirt crossed a police barricade, he was swarmed by officers while protesters screamed. He was led away on foot in handcuffs.

“It was kind of his mistake,” said Jason Phillips, 27, of Queens. “But they were trying to push him back, and as they pushed him back, he slipped, and they took that as some type of threat.”

Despite the frustrations of demonstrators on Friday, the police said the number of people detained was much smaller than the night before, when 72 people were arrested.

In a probable cause affidavit released on Friday after the charges against Mr. Chauvin were filed, prosecutors said that the former officer held his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. “Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive,” the affidavit said.

But preliminary results from an autopsy indicated that Mr. Floyd did not die from suffocation or strangulation, prosecutors wrote, and that “the combined effects” of an underlying heart condition, any potential intoxicants and the police restraint likely contributed to his death. He also began complaining that he could not breathe before he was pinned down, the affidavit said.

The officers’ body cameras were running throughout the encounter, prosecutors said.

Four officers responded to a report at about 8 p.m. on Monday about a man suspected of making a purchase from a store with a fake $20 bill, prosecutors said. After learning that the man was parked near the store, the first two responding officers, who did not include Mr. Chauvin, approached Mr. Floyd, a former high school sports star who worked as a bouncer at a restaurant in Minneapolis.

Mr. Floyd, who was in a car with two other people, was ordered out and arrested. But when the officers began to move him toward a squad car, he stiffened and resisted, according to the affidavit. While still standing, Mr. Floyd began to say he could not breathe, the affidavit said.

That was when Mr. Chauvin, who was among two other officers who arrived at the scene, got involved, prosecutors said. Around 8:19 p.m., Mr. Chauvin pulled Mr. Floyd out of the squad car and placed his knee onto Mr. Floyd’s neck area, holding him down on the ground while another officer held his legs. At times, Mr. Floyd pleaded, the affidavit said, saying, “I can’t breathe,” “please” and “mama.”

“You are talking fine,” the officers said, according to the affidavit, as Mr. Floyd wrestled on the ground.

At 8:24 p.m., Mr. Floyd went still, prosecutors said. A minute later, one of the other officers checked his wrist for a pulse but could not find one. Mr. Chauvin continued to hold his knee down on Mr. Floyd’s neck until 8:27, according to the affidavit.

The other officers, who have been identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, are under investigation. Mr. Freeman, the county attorney, said he expected to bring more charges in the case but offered no further details.

Professor Frase said the case against Mr. Chauvin appeared to be even stronger than the one that Hennepin County prosecutors brought against Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk in 2017.

In that case, Professor Frase said, the officer had seemingly panicked and fired a single shot. “There’s a question of whether he even had time to be reckless,” he said, referring to Mr. Noor. “Here, there’s eight minutes.”

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing Mr. Floyd’s family, released a statement on Friday calling the arrest of Mr. Chauvin “a welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.” But he said the charges did not go far enough.

“We expected a first-degree murder charge. We want a first-degree murder charge. And we want to see the other officers arrested,” said the statement, which was attributed to Mr. Floyd’s family and to Mr. Crump.

“The pain that the black community feels over this murder and what it reflects about the treatment of black people in America is raw and is spilling out onto streets across America,” the statement said.

Professor Frase said he expected Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers to seize on the preliminary autopsy findings that showed that Mr. Floyd had not died of asphyxiation, which could form the basis for an argument that there was no way Mr. Chauvin could have expected him to die. But Professor Frase said another common strategy used by police officers facing charges of brutality — arguing that they were in harm’s way — may be unlikely to convince a jury.

“In this case, there was nobody but Mr. Floyd in danger,” he said. “And there was all that time when it seems there was no need to keep kneeling on his neck like that.”

Reporting was contributed by Victoria Bekiempis, Katie Benner, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Audra D.S. Burch, Jo Corona, Maria Cramer, Julie Davis, Sopan Deb, Richard Fausset, Thomas Fuller, Katie Glueck, Russell Goldman, John Eligon, Manny Fernandez, Matt Furber, Maggie Haberman, Christine Hauser, Jack Healy, Thomas Kaplan, Michael Levenson, Dan Levin, Neil MacFarquhar, Eric Melzer, Sarah Mervosh, Elian Peltier, William K. Rashbaum, Katie Rogers, Edgar Sandoval, Marc Santora, Nate Schweber, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Marina Trahan Martinez, Neil Vigdor, Mike Wolgelenter and Raymond Zhong.



Source link Nytimes.com

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