America Aflame: Violent Protests Erupt In Cities Across U.S.

America Aflame: Violent Protests Erupt In Cities Across U.S.

The arrest on Friday afternoon of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chavin, who’s now been charged with 3rd degree murder in the death of George Floyd, provided a glimmer of hope that Friday evening would be at least a little calmer in the Twin Cities and other metropolitan areas that have seen violent protests in recent days. Those hopes disappeared with the setting sun, unfortunately, and despite a curfew ordered by Mayor Jacob Frey and the presence of hundreds of Minnesota National Guard troops on the streets, protesters and looters were once again clearly in control of some city streets throughout the evening.

While Minneapolis may be the epicenter of the civil unrest, protests took place in almost every American city on Friday evening, with many of them turning violent. In Atlanta, protesters smashed the windows of the CNN Center and squared off against riot police in the cable network’s lobby, while the nearby College Football Hall of Fame was targeted by looters.

In Washington, D.C., protests sent the White House on lockdown for a time as protesters played a dangerous game of chicken with Secret Service officers.

In New York City, dozens of arrests were made in both Brooklyn and Manhattan as protesters clashed with NYPD officers.

From the New York Post:

Anti-cop rage over the police-custody death of George Floyd boiled over  in New York City on Friday night — with hundreds of protesters trying to surround the 88th precinct in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood before being rebuffed by a massive NYPD mobilization.

Meanwhile, hundreds more protester at nearby Fort Greene Park, where some set an empty NYPD van on fire at around 9:30 p.m.

The same crowd had converged on the Barclay’s Center in Prospect Heights hours earlier, with police releasing chemical mace at the unruly demonstration there.

And still earlier in the day, in Lower Manhattan, at least 30 protesters were busted, including a man arrested for allegedly punching an NYPD sergeant in the head with brass knuckles.

The brass-knuckles wielding man allegedly walloped the sergeant as crowds massed at around 4 p.m. near Centre and Leonard streets; he was one of dozens of protesters to be arrested in Brooklyn and Manhattan, sources told The Post.

Name the city, and you were likely to find not just hundreds of people peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd or the criminal justice system as a whole, but large numbers of people looking for a fight or buildings to smash and burn.

Dallas, Texas:

Police Chief U. Reneé Hall, who has condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officers, was out among the officers monitoring the march.

“We’re giving you the streets,” she told one protester after objecting to demonstrators throwing rocks at her officers. “Don’t hit my folks.”

Tensions continued to rise as the night wore on.

Las Vegas, Nevada:

A peaceful protest with hundreds of people marching down the Strip on Friday afternoon, protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis custody, turned to tense stand offs with police and multiple arrests by evening.

By about 8:30 p.m., about 150 protestors who remained were being pushed down Flamingo Road toward Koval Lane by dozens of officers in riot gear. The Metropolitan Police Department officers occasionally rushed the crowd to encourage them to move back, and multiple people were seen being led away in handcuffs.

Los Angeles, California:

A police officer was attacked in the street and squad cars’ windows were smashed Friday on the third night of rallying in downtown Los Angeles over George Floyd’s death.

Officers were seen working to detain people after the burst of violence at Fifth and Olive streets was quickly subdued.

The L.A. Police Department later said no arrests had been made, but an officer was hospitalized with unspecified injuries. It was unclear whether it was the same officer involved in the scuffle.

Fort Wayne, Indiana:

Fort Wayne’s NBC camera crews saw protesters getting on top of a semi-truck.

Another Fort Wayne’s NBC Journalist Karli VanCleave spotted several people sitting in the road at Clinton and Main Street. That’s when Fort Wayne Police responded.

The FWPD formed a line of officers in riot gear telling people to get out of street around 8 p.m. Our cameras captured police spraying tear gas into the crowd. When protesters approached the police riot line, our cameras also captured officers spray pepper spray at them.

Several crew WPTA crew members were caught in the crossfire of tire gas while filming live reports as well. Fort Wayne’s NBC journalist Tom Powell captured video of people smashing windows of a law office on Berry Street.

Appeals for calm fell on deaf ears Friday evening. In Atlanta, the mayor enlisted the help of local celebrities and activists to plead with rioters to engage in peaceful protests.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms passionately addressed the protesters at a news conference: “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.”

“You are disgracing our city,” she told protesters. “You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country. We are better than this. We are better than this as a city. We are better than this as a country. Go home, go home.”

Bottoms was flanked by rappers T.I. and Killer Mike, as well as King’s daughter, Bernice King.

Killer Mike cried as he spoke.

“We have to be better than this moment. We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta what have we got?” he said.

After Mayor Bottoms appealed for calm, the violence continued. More cars were set on fire, a Starbucks was smashed up, the windows of the College Football Hall of Fame were broken, and the iconic Omni Hotel was vandalized.

That’s the thing about mobs; they’re not known for their reasonableness and rationality.

So what happens next? As far as the protests go, Saturday will be a critical evening. I think the attitude among many big city mayors at the moment is to attempt to ride out the protests until the fire subsides and the crowds dwindle on their own. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll see a growing push, even in the most progressive of cities, for authorities to do more to prevent the destruction of businesses and to keep the protests peaceful. That will likely involve both deescalation tactics and, when necessary, the use of crowd control techniques and arrests.

I think it’s also fair to say it’s going to be a busy weekend at gun stores and ranges around the country, based on common sense and conversations I had with several gun store employees on Friday. We’ve already seen a surge in gun purchases dating back to March, in large part because people were concerned about coronavirus-related civil unrest. Now we actually do have riots in the streets, and even some who were dismissing the idea of buying a gun two months ago will be visiting a gun store for the very first time today. Now that lockdown orders are being eased around the nation, many sheriffs are once again accepting concealed carry applications and I also expect to see a surge in the number of Americans exercising their right to carry for self-defense next week as well.

The right to protest is as fundamental to the American experience as the right to keep and bear arms, but it does not include the right to destroy. Arson is still arson, even if you set fire to a building while shouting “Justice!” There’s no such thing as looting in honor of George Floyd, or Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor. Chants of “We don’t need the police” aren’t likely to find a welcoming audience when you’re also smashing windows and gutting small businesses, and it’s harder than you might think for a neighborhood to rise from the ashes after it’s been burned to the ground.