Seven people were shot in Louisville, Kentucky; an SUV plowed into a crowd of demonstrators in Denver, Colorado; full city blocks were ablaze and a police station was torched in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
None of those involved in the overnight clashes would have likely even known that President Trump was censured by Twitter for “glorifying violence” against them when he threatened: “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Violence erupted Thursday night and carried on into Friday morning across a number of cities where underlying racial tensions having been simmering for decades. The protests began over the death of George Floyd—an unarmed black man who died when a white police officer knelt on his neck while in custody.
In Minneapolis, where Floyd died at the hands of white police officers who reportedly have a history of racial complaints against them, looters fought billowing smoke to scoop up massive TVs and large appliances after storefront windows were smashed. Target closed all 24 of its Minneapolis stores in response to the chaos after one of its stores was destroyed near the third precinct Police Station, which was burnt to the ground. The police station fire then spread to a nearby restaurant complex that was immediately engulfed in flames as fire fighters worked to put out multiple fires across the Twin City area.
In Louisville, Kentucky, gunfire erupted inside a crowd protesting over the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was killed by local police this spring. Seven people were injured, one critically. Police Sgt. Lamont Washington said in a statement that officers were not involved in the shooting.
In Phoenix, police monitored crowds gathering to protest Floyd’s death early Friday morning. Many there carried signs and pictures of friends who had also died in police custody. Tension flared at one point when protesters and police met in a standoff with protesters throwing bottles and rocks, breaking store windows and at least one patrol car windshield. Officers responded with tear gas and rubber pellets.
Disparity over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a shocking number of deaths of African Americans and minorities has fueled the tensions as demonstrators defied all social distancing warnings to take to the streets.
Even in locked-down New York City, at least 40 people were arrested at a rally in Union Square. Many chanted, “No Justice, No Peace” and “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd could be heard saying before he died. Many who gathered made comparisons to Eric Garner, a black man who said the same thing before he was killed by a Staten Island police officer in 2014.
In Denver, someone driving a black SUV ran into a protester who was part of an until-then peaceful demonstration over Floyd’s death. It is yet unclear whether the protester was injured.
People also gathered in Los Angeles, site of the infamous riots of 1992 which were sparked after three white police officers were initially acquitted despite being filmed beating up Rodney King. As more than a dozen officers stood around and watched, King a black man who had led them on a high speed chase, suffered skull fractures and brain damage in a savage attack caught on camera.
Protests are expected to carry on through the weekend in many major cities.