'It's like a warzone': Protests throw America into chaos


Americans woke up to cities burned, shops looted and the name of George Floyd, the man killed in an altercation with a police officer, graffitied and memorialised on buildings and cars across the nation.

However, something else happened as dawn broke. A twist to the unrest, as an army of people emerged to help clear up the charred and glass strewn streets with images on social media of even children helping in the effort.

But all eyes were still on the protests from the day before with at least 13 cities or counties declaring curfews on residents. Twelve states have activated their state national guards as vandalism as looting and fires spread across multiple cities.

One LA local said the violence he witnessed in the well-to-do area of Fairfax, close to Hollywood and Beverly Hills, was "the craziest think I've ever seen". Fancy clothes shops like Gucci and Alexander McQueen were smashed and looted during the unrest.

Across the country, tens of thousands marched peacefully through streets to protest the death of Mr Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.

But many demonstrations sank into chaos as night fell: Cars and businesses were torched. The words "I can't breathe" were spray-painted all over buildings. A fire in a trash bin burned near the gates of the White House.

Police have arrested at least 1,669 people in 22 U.S. cities in the past 3 days. At least one person has been killed in Indianapolis in shooting amid protests and 28 arrested in Nashville, with horses used to back crowds away from a police precinct.

The fury sparked by Floyd's death was compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has left millions out of work and killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S., including disproportionate numbers of black people.

"We're sick of it. The cops are out of control," protester Olga Hall said in Washington, D.C. "They're wild. There's just been too many dead boys."

People set fire to squad cars, threw bottles at officers and busted windows of storefronts, carrying away TVs and other items even as some protesters urged them to stop.

In Indianapolis, multiple shootings were reported, including one that left a person dead amid the protests, adding to deaths in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.

In Minneapolis, the city where the protests began, police, state troopers and National Guard members moved in soon after an 8pm curfew took effect to break up the demonstrations.

At least 13 police officers were injured in Philadelphia, and at least four police vehicles were set on fire.


A woman cries as she watches a building burn after a protest over the death of George Floyd in La Mesa, Calif. Picture: Gregory Bull
A woman cries as she watches a building burn after a protest over the death of George Floyd in La Mesa, Calif. Picture: Gregory Bull


In New York City, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets. A video showed two NYPD cruisers lurching into a crowd of demonstrators who were pushing a barricade against one of them and pelting it with objects. Several people were knocked to the ground. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.

"The mistakes that are happening are not mistakes. They're repeated violent terrorist offences, and people need to stop killing black people," Brooklyn protester Meryl Makielski said.


However, in many cities as Sunday dawned locals came out to survey the damage and even clear it up. One post on social media from Grand Rapids, a city in Michigan, showed people including children removing graffiti from city centre signs and buildings.

Mayor Rossalyn Bliss tweeted: "My heart is lifted as I make my way through downtown with hundreds of people helping clean up our city. This is our Grand Rapids."

Clean ups were also occurring in Philadelphia, Charleston, and other cities affected by protests.





The clean up came after overnight curfews were imposed in more than a dozen major cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle. Few corners of America were untouched, from protesters setting fires inside Reno's city hall, to police launching tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators in Fargo, North Dakota.



In Salt Lake City, demonstrators flipped a police car and lit it on fire. Police said six people were arrested and an officer was injured after being struck in the head with a baseball bat.

By daybreak, clean-up had already began in Nashville along Broadway Street - known for its famous honky tonks - after protesters broke windows, lit fires and destroyed light poles. Police said in a tweet that at least 30 businesses and buildings were damaged.


Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp authorised the deployment of up to 3,000 National Guard troops to Athens, Savannah and any other cities where more demonstrations were planned.

Kemp had already approved up to 1,500 Guardsmen to help enforce a 9pm curfew in Atlanta.

"The protesters need to know we're going to support their efforts in a peaceful, nonviolent protest," Kemp told television station WSB.

"The agitators need to know that we'll be there … to take them to jail if they're destroying lives and property."


A car burns in Chicago after a march and rally over the death of George Floyd. Picture: John J. Kim
A car burns in Chicago after a march and rally over the death of George Floyd. Picture: John J. Kim

President Donald Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics commending the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis, declaring "No games!" and saying police in New York City "must be allowed to do their job!"

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the violence as he continued to express common cause with those demonstrating after Floyd's death.

"The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest," Biden said in a statement.




In Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014, sparking a wave of protests throughout the country, six officers were hurt after being hit with rocks and fireworks.

Nearly a third of the arrests came in Los Angeles, where the governor declared a state of emergency and ordered the National Guard to back up the city's 10,000 police officers as dozens of fires burned across the city.

Originally published as US burns as anger over killings peaks