Protesters start fires near White House in US divide over Floyd murder

Demonstrators yell at police in riot gear as they protest the death of George Floyd, Saturday, May 30, 2020, near the White House in Washington | Photo: AP/PTI
Protesters started fires near the White House as tensions with police mounted during a third straight night of demonstrations held in response to the death of George Floyd at police hands in Minnesota.

An hour before the 11 p.m. curfew, police fired a major barrage of tear gas stun grenades into the crowd of more than 1,000 people, largely clearing Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and scattering protesters into the street.

Protesters piled up road signs and plastic barriers and lit a raging fire in the middle of H Street.

Some pulled an American flag from a nearby building and threw it into the blaze. Others added branches pulled from trees. A cinder block structure, on the north side of the park, that had bathrooms and a maintenance office, was engulfed in flames.

Several miles north, a separate protest broke out in Northwest D.C., near the Maryland border.

The Metropolitan Police Department says there were break-ins at a Target and a shopping center that houses Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue Men's Store, T.J. Maxx, a movie theater and specialty stores. Police say several individuals have been detained.

America's cities boarded up windows, swept up glass and covered graffiti as the country's most significant night of protests in a half-century spilled into another day of unrest fuelled by killings of black people at the hands of police.

The turbulence sparked by the death of George Floyd a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes shook not only the streets of New York and Los Angeles, but dozens of smaller communities such as Fargo, North Dakota, and Lincoln, Nebraska. The damage extended even to buildings near the White House.

They keep killing our people, said Mahira Louis, 15, who marched with her mother and several hundred others through downtown Boston on Sunday. I'm so sick and tired of it.

Peaceful protests involving tens of thousands of people on Saturday gave way, in some places, to violence, with police vehicles torched, stores emptied and objects hurled at officers. The police response varied from restrained to aggressive, with officers at times firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Police and peaceful protesters alike pleaded for a stop to violence, saying it weakened calls for justice and reform.

It only hurts the cause, said Danielle Outlaw, head of the police force in Philadelphia, where more than 200 people were arrested as fires and looting engulfed the heart of the city.

Disgust over generations of racism in a country founded by slaveholders combined with a string of recent racially charged killings to stoke the anger. Adding to that was angst from months of lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt communities of color, not only in terms of infections but in job losses and economic stress.

The droves of people congregating for demonstrations threatened to trigger new outbreaks, a fact overshadowed by the boiling tensions.


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