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Demonstrations continued across the United States on Sunday as officials braced for another night of destruction after a weekend of protests met by aggressive law enforcement response.
The fear and fury that had seized Minneapolis, where the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police last week set off days of protracted unrest, have now swept well beyond Minnesota, with tumultuous demonstrations from New York City and Los Angeles and dozens of cities in between.
The city of Philadelphia announced a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew after a day of violence and looting there, and Arizona’s governor declared a state of emergency and ordered a nightly 8 p.m. curfew that he said was “effective for one week.”
The actions came a day after hundreds of people were arrested across the country as clashes erupted between protesters and the police in dozens of states. In some cities, the authorities appeared to fire rubber bullets and other projectiles with little or no provocation. In New York City, two police vehicles surged forward into a crowd of demonstrators, some of whom were blocking the street and pelting the cars with debris.
At least 75 cities have seen protests in recent days, and the number mayors and governors imposing curfews — already more than two dozen — continued to grow. It is the first time so many local leaders have simultaneously issued such orders in the face of civic unrest since 1968, after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
National Guard soldiers were posted in Atlanta and Minneapolis, California moved troops into Los Angeles, and President Trump — out of public view but active on Twitter — urged governors, largely Democrats, to enact more and more forceful responses.
“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!
Sunday’s protests marked the sixth day of outrage since George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis on Monday. A cellphone video showed a white police officer — since fired and charged with third-degree murder — grinding his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as he struggled to breathe.
Coming after months of restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic and the deep economic slowdown they have caused, with 40 million people out of work, the video of Mr. Floyd’s death brought a renewed outpouring of anguish over inequality and maltreatment that showed little sign of slowing.
In New York City, where chaotic confrontations between protesters and the police have resulted in dozens of injuries, hundreds of arrests, smashed storefronts and burned police vehicles, several groups of demonstrators were gathering again across the city on Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of people had gathered at the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn. Another large group marched south from Washington Square Park in Manhattan and crossed the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn.
A demonstration at Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan began with raised fists and a moment of silence. Many businesses had boarded up their windows in anticipation of trouble.
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President Trump said on Twitter on Sunday that the United States would designate a group of far-left anti-fascism activists as a terrorist organization, a declaration that lacked any clear legal authority, as his administration sought to blame the group for violent protests across the nation over the weekend.
“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” Mr. Trump wrote.
The president has periodically criticized antifa, a contraction of the word “anti-fascist” that has come to be associated with a diffuse movement of left-wing protesters who engage in more aggressive techniques like vandalism.
But it was not clear that Mr. Trump’s declaration would have any real meaning beyond his characteristic attempts to stir a culture-war controversy, attract attention and please his conservative base.
“There is no authority under law to do that — and if such a statute were passed, it would face serious First Amendment challenges,” said Mary B. McCord, a former head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “But right now, the only terrorist authority is for foreign terrorist organizations.”
Nevertheless, in a statement after Mr. Trump’s tweet, Attorney General William P. Barr said the F.B.I. would use its partnerships with state and local police to identify violent protesters, whom he also called domestic terrorists.
“The violence instigated and carried out by antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” Mr. Barr said.
But the American Civil Liberties Union condemned Mr. Trump’s vow in a statement from Hina Shamsi, its national security project director.
“As this tweet demonstrates, terrorism is an inherently political label, easily abused and misused,” Ms. Shamsi said. “There is no legal authority for designating a domestic group. Any such designation would raise significant due process and First Amendment concerns.”
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, appeared in downtown Wilmington, Del., on Sunday, where he visited the site of Saturday’s protests and toured businesses damaged during the demonstrations.
In a photo posted to social media, Mr. Biden, wearing a mask, is kneeling down to speak with a man and a child.
“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us,” he wrote on Instagram. “We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us. The only way to bear this pain is to turn all that anguish to purpose.”
Two days earlier, Mr. Biden had challenged white Americans to confront the country’s racial inequality, saying that “this is the norm black people in this country deal with.”
The former vice president, who has long carefully balanced appeals for racial justice with a tough-on-crime message, notably did not equivocate by warning protesters against violence.
In doing so, he struck a contrast with President Trump, who has largely chosen not to address the country’s racial strife and has instead fanned the flames on Twitter, calling protesters “ANARCHISTS” in a post on Sunday.
As President Trump painted the National Guard as key to restoring order and taunted Democratic governors and mayors for not calling out the troops, the generals in charge of troops in three states said on Sunday afternoon that they had been only in support roles and had not used any force to put down the civil unrest.
The leaders of the Minnesota, Georgia and Colorado National Guards made clear that while troops had probably had a deterrent effect, the bulk of the credit for containing the violence went to local police officers. National Guard forces have been used mostly to secure buildings, allowing more police officers to move to the front lines, they said.
“Our purpose is to allow our local law enforcement professionals to do their jobs,” said Gen. Jon Jensen, the leader of Minnesota’s National Guard. “We do that by relieving them of items like infrastructure security.”
The forces in Minnesota and Georgia are armed, while the Colorado troops have only nonlethal weaponry. The generals did not describe under what conditions they would use force, only that they would be proportional and used in self-defense.
General Jensen said he had requested additional military police battalions from the National Guard forces of neighboring states, but said he would not recommend the Minnesota governor request regular Army forces for that job, as Mr. Trump has offered.
Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden Jr., the adjutant general of the Georgia National Guard, expressed dismay that his forces had to be called out for a domestic civil unrest mission.
“We in America should not get used to or accept uniformed service members of any variety having to be put in a position where they are having to secure people inside the United States of America,” General Carden said. “While we are honored to do it, this is a sign of the times that we have to do better as a country.”
Target is temporarily closing or shortening the hours of about 200 stores in the United States as protests and looting spread across the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
The Target store on Lake Street in Minneapolis, the location nearest to where Mr. Floyd died, was engulfed by unrest, badly damaged and looted last week. Images of the battered store have featured prominently in news coverage of the unrest in Minneapolis, where Target has its headquarters.
In a statement on its website Saturday night, Target said: “We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing communities across the country. At this time, we have made the decision to close a number of our stores.”
The site initially listed 174 affected stores — 70 in Minnesota and 104 in other states, including New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
In an interview on Sunday morning, Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman, said the number of affected stores had grown to about 200. He said that total was a mix of temporary closings at some stores and shortened hours at others, though he did not supply a breakdown. The steps were being taken, he said, “out of an abundance of caution” to ensure “the safety of our teams.”
Mr. Thomas said the number of affected stores was changing daily. On Sunday, the website had changed, dropping the detailed list of closings and no longer suggesting that all the stores listed were closings. Target has nearly 1,900 stores in the United States.
Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia called the looters “anarchists” at a midday news conference, hours before all retail stores in Philadelphia were closed on Sunday afternoon. For a second night, a citywide curfew was imposed, set for 6 p.m.
The peaceful protesters’ message about racism and use of force by the police “in no way should be diminished by anarchists and others who tried to cause chaos in our city last night,” Mr. Kenney said at the news conference, adding that the instigators “did a great disservice to the many others who chose to speak out forcefully against institutional racism and violence at the hands of the police.”
Streets in the Center City business district were closed starting at noon to allow cleanup from the previous night’s protests. Mass transit service was curtailed.
Pennsylvania joined several states that moved to make it easier to activate the National Guard this weekend, and the city, along with suburban Montgomery County, asked for help from the Guard on Sunday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Mass protests that have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases.
More than 100,000 Americans have already died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. People of color have been particularly hard hit, with rates of hospitalizations and deaths among black Americans far exceeding those of whites.
While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus.
The protests are occurring as many states have warily begun reopening after weeks of stay-at-home orders.
In Los Angeles, where demonstrations led to the closing of virus testing sites on Saturday, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the protests could become so-called “super-spreader events” that can lead to an explosion of secondary infections.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, expressed concern that his state would see a spike in cases in about two weeks, which is about how long it takes for symptoms to emerge after someone is infected, while Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, advised people who were out protesting “to go get a Covid test this week.”
Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission. In addition, many of the demonstrators were wearing masks.
Melvin Carter, the mayor of St. Paul, Minn., said on Sunday that what his city needed to help restore order after days of protests was not military assistance, but rather assurances that someone would be held accountable for the death of George Floyd.
Speaking on the CNN program “State of the Union,” Mr. Carter called for “peace,” not “patience,” a phrase also used by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta on the same program.
Referring to the video of Mr. Floyd’s death that sparked the protests, Mr. Carter said, “When all of humanity can look at this video and say, ‘That’s disgusting, that’s unacceptable,’ and yet somehow we have four officers in the video, who — three of whom sat there and either helped hold Mr. Floyd down or stood guard over the scene while it happened, that is an incredible insult to humanity.”
Mr. Carter, whose father is a retired St. Paul police officer, rejected the notion that Mr. Floyd’s death was an isolated incident or the work of one rogue officer. “When you have four officers in the video all responsible for the taking of George Floyd’s life, it points to a culture of normalized, a culture that’s accepted.”
At least 170 businesses had been damaged during protests in St. Paul, he said. He called on protesters to channel their frustration and anger into “destroying the laws, destroying the legal precedents, destroying the police union contracts,” instead of burning and looting.
Mayor Bottoms of Atlanta warned against allowing the clashes to obscure the reasons for the protests.
“Yesterday, we weren’t talking about George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor, we were talking about police cars burning in our street,” Ms. Bottoms said. “What happens when we have these violent protests and uprisings in our city, we get distracted from what the real issue is. And we need to get back to what the problem is, and that’s the killing of unarmed black people in America.”
People streamed into downtown San Antonio on Sunday with buckets and brooms instead of placards and signs. Volunteers could be seen in Grand Rapids, Mich., passing out trash bags and sweeping away broken glass. Hundreds gathered in Madison, Wis., to clean up.
The night before, crowds in these cities, like others across the country, were protesting police violence and decades of entrenched racism. Anger ran high, and some people smashed windows, ransacked businesses and lit fires. But on Sunday morning, community volunteers were fanning out to mend what they could.
In Madison, Michael Johnson, chief executive of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, said the group had asked for 100 volunteers to clean up on Sunday morning, and 2,000 people showed up. “Madison, this is our city!” Mr. Johnson said on Twitter. “Together, we are stronger.”
The cleanup efforts reflect how, even as scenes of divisiveness, violence and police aggression claim national attention, the protests have also brought forth scenes of unity and good will. Stories have also circulated of protesters and bystanders acting to protect shops or help people injured in the demonstrations.
Videos posted on social media showed protesters in Brooklyn blocking the entrance to a Target store to shield it from looting. In Minneapolis, the Gandhi Mahal Restaurant became a makeshift field hospital, where medics treated people for rubber-bullet wounds and where people recovered from tear gas inhalation — until the restaurant was severely damaged by a fire.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London on Sunday afternoon and marched toward the United States Embassy, the most visible sign so far of popular support overseas for the protests across the U.S. against police killings of black people.
Holding signs and clapping their hands, the protesters gathered in the square in defiance of stay-at-home restrictions in effect across Britain to fight the coronavirus pandemic. They chanted “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter,” and “No justice, no peace,” before crossing the Thames to march peacefully to the embassy.
The protest march on Sunday echoed one on Saturday in the Peckham district of South London. Another London march is planned for next Sunday.
Several hundred protesters rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on Sunday, holding up signs saying “Justice for George Floyd” and “Stop killing us,” Reuters reported.
As cities and states brace for more demonstrations in the coming days, the authorities have responded by calling in more resources and readjusting previously held plans.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Sunday, an action that enables him to designate federal agents to serve as Texas peace officers. The Republican governor, who activated the Texas National Guard a day earlier, issued the disaster order after protests in the state’s major cities touched off confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement.
“As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss,” Mr. Abbott said in announcing the disaster declaration. “Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said. “However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive.”
And in South Florida, Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County postponed the planned reopening of beaches following the lockdown because of the pandemic. Miami-Dade beaches had been scheduled to open on Monday.
“The beaches will remain closed until the curfew order is lifted,” Mr. Gimenez said in a statement on Sunday. He cited an emergency order he signed on Saturday imposing a countywide curfew after a small group of protesters set police cars on fire outside the Miami Police Department’s downtown headquarters.
The beach reopenings would have involved a significant police presence. Condominium pools and hotels in the county will be allowed to reopen on Monday as planned.
Hundreds of protesters returned to the streets of downtown Austin on Sunday in what were described as largely peaceful demonstrations after sporadic looting and confrontations between police and protesters the previous day.
Sunday’s gatherings took place even after the Austin Justice Coalition canceled plans for an official demonstration. Organizers said they had halted the plans because they were worried about the safety of participants and because protests were being co-opted and made violent by people who were not black.
One woman who attended the gathering on Sunday said she had been pepper-sprayed by the police, and the authorities reported a possible looting incident in an outlying shopping center. But the demonstrations were relatively calm compared with Saturday, when protesters blocked traffic on I-35, set fire to several parked cars and looted businesses on Sixth Street.
Carrying placards with inscriptions such as “Black Futures Matter” and “End Racism,” the demonstrators started out at the State Capitol, marched to city hall several blocks to the south and later returned to the Capitol.
“It’s been peaceful so far,” said Sgt. Victor Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said in a Facebook video that on Saturday night, white people had been “burning stuff up in the name of Black Lives Matter” and that there were rumors that attempts would be made to hijack Sunday’s demonstration.
In general, he said, he recognized rioting as a tactic that could be used to advance the movement. But in this case, he said, agitators were using protests to bring about anarchy, so the demonstration was called off to keep black people safe, including the children and older people who were expected to attend on Sunday.
“You are using black pain, and you are using fake outrage in the name of Black Lives Matter to go deface and destroy property, which we would then get the blame for,” Mr. Moore said, referring to white provocateurs.
“To those people, to those agitators, we see you, we know who you are, and we’re not going to let you co-opt and colonize this movement like you’ve done everything else.”
Members of Congress grasped on Sunday for any legislative actions they could take to address racist violence and excessive use of force by police forces.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said members of the House were looking at banning chokeholds, establishing a commission to study the status of black men in America and addressing the fact that black Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, said his staff was preparing legislation to establish a national police misconduct database to prevent officers who are fired for misconduct from being hired by another department somewhere else; to require reporting of any use of force by police; to ban racial and religious profiling; to institute mandatory bias training; and to alter a federal law that governs misconduct by law enforcement, known as Section 242.
And Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, said he had urged President Trump to form a commission on race and justice.
“This is not like we don’t know what to do,” Mr. Booker said on “State of the Union.” “It’s that we have not manifested a collective will to get it done.”
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, lawmakers agreed that Mr. Trump was only inflaming the situation in the country with tweets threatening force against protesters.
“Those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Mr. Scott said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said he had urged Mr. Trump to focus instead on the “the unjustified, in my opinion, the criminal death of George Floyd.”
Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who represents part of the Minneapolis area, said on ABC that Mr. Trump had “failed in really understanding the kind of pain and anguish many of his citizens are feeling.”
In downtown Chicago, people crawled through the partially shattered exterior window of a Nike store and ran out carrying athletic gear and sneakers.
On Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, they ignited garbage cans and broke locks on luxury stores, sweeping up armfuls of designer handbags and jeans.
And as night fell on Minneapolis, business owners stood outside their doors and pleaded with agitators to spare the enterprises that many said they had spent their life savings to build.
“I was outside saying, ‘Please, I don’t have insurance!’” said Hussein Aloshani, an immigrant from Iraq, waving his arms in frustration as he recounted the scene Friday night outside the deli his family owns.
Businesses across the country suffered destruction over the weekend as protesters unleashed their anger over the death of George Floyd on commercial enterprises.
Regardless of who the perpetrators were, many store owners said they felt like the victims of misplaced aggression. They said their businesses, already ailing from the coronavirus pandemic, might not recover.
In Georgia, Kris Shelby awoke around 1 a.m. Saturday to the sound of gunfire outside his apartment, which overlooks the luxury clothing store he manages — one that has been a welcoming space for a diverse group of Atlantans.
But when he went to the store hours later, Mr. Shelby found that all of his merchandise was gone. He watched videos posted on social media of masked young people of all races swarming through the smashed front windows and leaving with items worth hundreds of dollars each.
“It hurt. It seriously hurt,” Mr. Shelby said of Mr. Floyd’s death. “But as a black man, and this is a black-owned business, it’s just sad. It really leaves a bad taste in our mouths, to be honest.”
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Peter Baker, Katie Benner, Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Chris Cameron, Johnny Diaz, Caitlin Dickerson, Nicholas Fandos, Tess Felder, Ben Fenwick, Russell Goldman, Maggie Haberman, Julian Barnes, Rebecca Halleck, Steve Lohr, Patricia Mazzei, Christopher Mele, David Montgomery, Elian Peltier, Roni Caryn Rabin, Simon Romero, Marc Santora, Charlie Savage, Johanna Barr, Zach Johnk, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.
Source: NY times