Authorities across the U.S. scrambled for was on Tuesday to calm the unrest over police racism against African Americans, they’ve extended curfews and engaged protesters, while the President of the U.S. Donald Trump faced heavy criticism for resorting to the deployment of force to break up a peaceful rally.
The protest over George Floyd’s death has brought a multiracial coalition peacefully to the streets since the black American was murdered by a Minneapolis police but each night has seen mayhem, with both activists and officials blaming rabble-rousers.
New York City has launched its first prolonged curfew since World War II after some of the city’s most storied shopping addresses were ransacked, with the flagship Macy’s store.
Minnesota took one of the first concrete actions to address the grievances behind the uprising, which began in the state’s largest city Minneapolis after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man.
Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer had his neck pinned on the floor for almost nine minutes, Derek Chauvin, the police officer ignored Floyd’s pleas for his life and had remained on the force despite multiple complains that he could not breath.
“We must take this moment to change it all,” Lieutenant Governor Penny Flanagan said of structural discrimination while assuring reporters that the state was working towards launching a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, which would look into possible violations going back 10 years.
In Los Angeles, one of the dozens of cities hit by unrest, police officers and Mayor Eric Garcetti dropped to their knees in a symbolic act of solidarity as they met marchers led by African-American Christian groups.
“A black face should not be a sentence to die, nor to be homeless, nor to be sick, nor to be underemployed, nor to be under-educated,” Garcetti told them.
Inviting the leaders into City Hall, he promised a discussion about issues, “not about words. We need a country that listens,” he said.
Trump blasts scum
In Washington, thousands of people returned to the streets on Tuesday for a peaceful “Black Lives Matter” march, and helicopters quickly hovered above them, following a night of low-flying choppers kicking up debris in scenes reminiscent of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
But on Monday, federal police deployed by Trump opened tear gas and fired rubber bullets to break up a non-violent protest in Lafayette Park outside the White House, moments before Trump strolled outside for a photo-op at a historic nearby church damaged by arson the previous night.
Trump, who has rejected the traditional presidential role of healer, voiced glee on Twitter over the response in Washington and accused the leadership of New York — led by the rival Democratic Party — of succumbing to “Lowlife & Scum.”
“Overwhelming force. Domination,” wrote Donald Trump, who a day earlier declared himself “your president of law and order.”
Trump’s presumptive Democratic rival in November 3 elections, Joe Biden condemned the crackdown on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park as an abuse of power and promised, if elected, to tackle the “systemic racism” in the country.
“Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield driven by old resentments and fresh fears,” Biden said in a speech in Philadelphia, a city also hit by violence.
“He thinks division helps him,” Biden said while adding that, “His narcissism has become more important than the nation’s wellbeing.”
The U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday visited another prominent religious site, a shrine in honor of Pope John Paul II, prompting the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Washington to say space was being “egregiously misused and manipulated.”
The late pontiff “certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate (people) for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said.
The United States also faced unusual criticism from some of its international allies who openly condemned racism and the use of force to break a peaceful protest.
First was German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas who described the anti-racism protests as “understandable and more than legitimate.”
“I hope that these peaceful protests won’t slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States,” Maas told reporters.
Germany, Britain, and Australia all commented on the safety of the media after a number of journalists were mishandled by police, and at other times by rioters.