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‘Never Seen It Like This’: Police and Protesters Clash for Sixth Fiery Night

‘COLLECTIVE GRIEF’
Violent protests over George Floyd’s death raged into Sunday evening, as protesters faced tear gas and rubber bullets—and even a rogue trucker speeding down a Minneapolis highway.

Fiery protests over the death of George Floyd entered a sixth straight day across America, with stretches of Philadelphia turned into a war zone Sunday afternoon, with riots and looting met with tear gas and rubber bullets, and a Los Angeles police SUV reportedly slamming into a demonstrator before speeding off.

The alleged hit-and-run in Pershing Square downtown was captured on video shared by Twitter users on Sunday afternoon. Demonstrators chased the police vehicle after it hit a man, whose injuries are unclear, and spun around. As hundreds gathered for peaceful protests, others looted businesses in Santa Monica. One activist tried to stop looters from breaking into an REI store.

Cops in downtown Seattle hurled tear gas and flashbangs into a crowd of protesters, who ran from the smoke. People raised their arms and shouted, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” National Guard trucks, with soldiers in camouflage, rolled through the streets where volunteers cleaned wreckage that morning.

In New York, thousands shut down both lanes of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, marching past the Barclays Center and toward the Manhattan Bridge. The sounds of car horns mixed with the rumble of protesters on motor bikes and ATVs and chants of “No justice! No peace!” At least one person was cuffed by police.

By sunset, the marchers crossed the bridge, which was closed to all traffic.

But after dark, the city again swelled with disorder. Around 9:12 p.m., cops appeared to attack protesters near Canal and Church streets, where one witness shot video of police in white uniforms and black riot gear trampling the crowd. One person was shoved off a Citi Bike in the skirmish. It’s unclear what prompted the encounter.

Rioters shattered windows up Fifth Avenue on their journey to 14th Street and Union Square. Kate Spade, Apple, and CVS stores were vandalized in the apparent absence of a large police presence.

Around 10 p.m., rioters in Union Square set a vehicle ablaze, according to one Twitter video of the incident. Rioters were captured on video smashing the windows of a Walgreens pharmacy and also looting a GameStop store. 

In Philadelphia, TV news helicopters captured crowds of people destroying police vehicles, setting one ablaze, and ransacking multiple stores throughout the city.

The destruction follows a violent Saturday that saw peaceful demonstrations in City Center erupt in clashes between protesters and the police, who arrested more than 200 people, as looters smashed windows and started fires. The next day, volunteers and business owners swept broken glass and boarded up windows amid the chaos.

Mayor Jim Kenney ordered a 6 p.m. curfew and for all businesses to close immediately as authorities attempted to rein in the violence and looting, and National Guard units were expected to be deployed to Philadelphia and nearby Montgomery County. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) shut down all transit in Philadelphia and the suburbs to coincide with the curfew.

Indeed, the protests continued in cities including Seattle, San Diego, and Minneapolis, where Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man and father of two, was killed by a white police officer during an arrest relating to a counterfeit $20 bill on May 25. The officer, Derek Chauvin, held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, ignoring his pleas to stop. 

On Sunday evening, a tanker truck barreled into a crowd on Minneapolis’ I-35W bridge, where thousands of people were peacefully marching in protest. The truck driver, who was arrested, was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Laura Eltawely told The Daily Beast she and her husband, Ahmad, along with their four small children, were trying to exit the bridge when police drove up an entrance ramp and inexplicably fired tear gas into the crowd fleeing the truck.

“They were openly gassing people that they knew were running away from the incident they were responding to,” Eltawely said.

The couple and their kids, aged 1 month to 10 years old, took shelter in an apartment building.

“This was a daytime peaceful demonstration,” Eltawely added. “We had no idea there would be clashes with police.”

A truck also plowed into a Black Lives Matter protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where hundreds gathered on I-244. The pickup, which had a trailer attached, sped into the throng before briefly stopping up the road, near a ramp where cops were stationed. The officers apparently let the driver go. According to KMRG, one person was transported to the hospital and authorities are trying to find the motorist.

Some areas seemed quieter on Sunday, including Washington, D.C., which convulsed with vandalism and fires blocks from the White House the night before.

The district was stable two hours before the first night of an 11 p.m. curfew. Crowds gathered at metal barricades erected at the entrance to Lafayette Park, which surrounds the White House, but demonstrators expected it to intensify as curfew drew nearer. Rondell Jordan, a 30-year-old lawyer, said he planned to leave “before the shit hits the fan.”

“And it should,” he added.

Before 11 p.m., rioters packed the streets and set St. John's Episcopal Church on fire. The historic church, built in 1815, is one block from the White House.

They also torched at least one vehicle, a small building that holds restrooms, and dragged a massive tree branch into the street as kindling for a bonfire. The AFL-CIO building was broken into and vandalized with graffiti, including “Fuck the Police” and “Fuck 12.” Soon after, a fire was set inside the lobby.

One block away, police guarded the St. Regis luxury hotel.

In Philadelphia, footage from TV news choppers showed a flood of people climbing through an opening in a Family Dollar store and leaving with grocery bags and boxes of items before cops in riot gear arrived to guard the business. In another location, cameras captured looters attacking one another.

Meanwhile, looters broke into a Target store in the neighborhood of Wynnefield Heights. People pulled their cars up to the chain store and shoved boxes into their trunks, while others ran out with hangers of clothes, news helicopters showed.

By late Sunday afternoon, there was widespread looting—of sneaker stores, of a Metro PCS and other businesses—along Kensington Avenue on the east side of the city. Around the same time, a Walmart was being rummaged through about two miles north.

Some nearby residents told The Daily Beast the plundering of businesses did little in furthering justice for Floyd. “So, everybody’s saying that this is all for George, and it’s really not,” said Jessica Conyers, 29. “Y’all basically doing for y’all selves. Stealing is not justice.”

“Some of the people don’t even live in the neighborhood,” Calvin Walker, 58, chimed in. “They doing it cause they doing it. It’s not about the protests.”

Looters at a Foot Locker store on Chestnut Street in West Philly were met with police forces, and rubber bullets and canisters of tear gas were fired into the crowd. 

“We were standing across the street from Foot Locker and we noticed a crowd of people running out and a crowd of cops running toward them. And then we see a cop jump in front of a motorcycle to stop this man and they start hitting him right away. I say ‘Hey I got you on camera,’” said one witness, Cordarrol Washington.

“And that’s when he got violent. She got shot,” Washington continued, pointing to a woman being treated by paramedics, “and I got shot multiple times.”

Locals told a Daily Beast reporter they were outraged by the devastation. Some even begged for the looting to stop, as volunteer medics poured water into people’s faces and offered masks and hand sanitizers. At least one business owner, Won S. Hwang, drove to the scene to protect his store. Hwang, a discount hair supplier, said he’s owned his shop for 30 years and has “never seen it like this.”

Cheryel-Lynn Sumpter, a 28-year resident and homeowner, told The Daily Beast: “I am not mad with the police today. I’m mad at people running around and stealing. Because y’all wanna come out here and steal. This has nothing to do with George Floyd. Now we can’t even walk outside because people came down here with bags and stuff. Why am I getting tear gassed in my own alley?”

Rick Bell, a 45-year-old teacher, said he “can’t count how many times” he’s been harassed by police and underscored the importance of the protests against police brutality. “People are tired. This cannot continue to go on,” Bell said. 

“I agree looting is not the thing we should be doing,” Bell added. He suggested people go on social media to “see who’s really looting.” 

“It’s not just young black kids. It’s everyone across the board,” he said.

In Minneapolis, a crowd of thousands gathered near the Cup Foods store, just outside of which Floyd was killed. Speakers took turns invoking Floyd’s name, and making clear why protesters and members of the community remain unsatisfied with the lone arrest of Chauvin. “When we say ‘no justice, no peace,’ we mean no justice, no peace,” said one speaker who was born in Floyd’s native Houston.

This gathering was peaceful and without any police officers, who spent Saturday night firing on protesters and chasing them all over the city in sporadic and chaotic clashes that went deep into the night. 

Nancy Alayon, owner of Quetal, a Salvadoran food truck, planned to hand out 1,500 free meals thanks to $4,000 raised by loyal customers. 

“We’re all feeling this collective grief,” she said.

After the tanker truck incident, protesters spread into a deserted downtown and circled empty skyscrapers under the gaze of the National Guard soldiers, who clutched rifles. 

The crowd followed south for miles, flanked by a caravan of cars packed with people, hanging out windows and sitting through sunroofs.

—With reporting by Spencer Ackerman in New York City and Sam Brodey in Washington, D.C.

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