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Timeline: How the death of George Floyd led to violent protests and a Trump threat to deploy the military

Here’s how events have escalated in the last eight days.

A protester raises his fist during a rally in Las Vegas.
A protester raises his fist during a rally in Las Vegas.
Image: John Locher via PA

CITIES ACROSS THE US are in chaos after days of rioting. 

At least six people have died in unrest sparked by the response to the death on Monday of last week of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who had been accused of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

He lost his life in custody after police officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for a sustained period of time. His death has sparked protests around the world.

It happened in Minneapolis, a city of 425,000 in the state of Minnesota.
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Yesterday, US President Donald Trump floated the idea of using a 213-year-old law in a bid to quash the demonstrations, which have now entered their eighth day. 

The 1807 Insurrection Act was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson and gives the sitting president the ability to deploy the military to end “civil disorder, rebellion or insurrection”.

Here’s how events have escalated in the last eight days.

Monday 25 May

George Floyd was 46-years-old when he died. 

Police were called after he had been accused of using counterfeit money to purchase a packet of cigarettes in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by police officer Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck. 

Tuesday 26 May 

A video of the arrest incident begins to go viral.

In numerous videos shot by passersby, Chauvin is seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck as the handcuffed man repeatedly insists that he can’t breathe. He then calls out for his “mama” before he finally passes out. 

Floyd suffered a cardiac arrest and died a short time later, according to the audio of calls between emergency services. 

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Demonstrations began to form around Minneapolis in the hours after the video was shared. The four officers who were filmed in the arrest videos were all fired by the city’s police chief, who himself called for an FBI investigation into Floyd’s death.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Minneapolis. Police cars were vandalised and the police precinct where the four police officers were based was set on fire. 

Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to disperse the crowds. 

Wednesday 27 May

Demonstrations spread across the United States. Los Angeles, California, and Memphis, Tennessee, see scuffles between protesters and police. 

Protests continued in Minneapolis meanwhile. More people joined the demonstrations, several of which turned violent during the night.

Police moved in again on the demonstrations, and several people – both police and demonstrators – received injuries.

Sporadic looting took place in shops across the city. 

Thursday 28 May

The National Guard is deployed to Minneapolis.

At this time that the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, along with many other commentators and politicians, began to condemn the demonstrators, who they said were not protesting anymore and were simply committing violent acts.

Demonstrations continued across the US.

Friday 29 May

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Derek Chauvin, the police officer who was videoed restraining George Floyd with his knee, is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

Tensions once again rose as news of the charges filtered through to demonstrators, with many of them saying Chauvin should be charged with first-degree murder, an offence which carries much harsher penalties. 

It has since emerged that Chauvin and Floyd had worked as bouncers in the same nightclub. Prosecutors are now trying to establish if their paths had crossed during their shifts. 

The State Police were deployed to Minneapolis. CNN journalist Omar Jimenez was arrested live on television as he reported on the unfolding crisis. 
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Donald Trump said he spoke to George Floyd’s family and described them as “terrific people”.

Trump was also criticised for earlier comments in which he called protesters in Minneapolis “THUGS” and warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.

More violence flared in Atlanta, New York City as well as Washington DC. 

Saturday 30 May

US Attorney General Bill Barr claims that far-left extremists and anarchists are behind the violent protests against police brutality in more than a dozen cities, and warns federal law enforcement could take action against them.

Barr blamed “violent radical elements” and said “in many places, it appears the violence is planned, organised and driven by anarchic and far-left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from outside the state to promote the violence”.

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An hour later, Trump described the death of George Floyd as “a grave tragedy”, as he watched the liftoff of a crewed space flight in Florida and added that Floyd’s memory had been dishonoured by “rioters, looters and anarchists”.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey described the actions of violent protesters as “domestic terrorism”. 

One man was shot and killed in Chicago during a violent incident linked to the demonstrations. Another man died in a similar incident in Indianapolis.
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Sunday 31 May

By this stage, hundreds of thousands of people are protesting in the US nightly and the National Guard has been sent to over 20 states to quell violence. 

A man was killed in Louisville, Kentucky when shots broke out as the authorities cleared a large crowd. The city’s police chief said officers were fired upon, and that both the police and the National Guard returned fire.

Looting took place in many cities, including Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta.

Fires continued to burn across the US as protesters continued to torch buildings and enter retail outlets, causing damage. 

Monday 1 June

An autopsy finds George Floyd was suffocated by a police officer, as cities including New York impose curfews to stop the violence.

He died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” and the manner of death was “homicide,” the Hennepin County Medical Examiner in Minneapolis said in a statement.

Protests were also organised in countries across the world. In Dublin, thousands took to the streets in a protest that ended at the US embassy in Ballsbridge. 

In New Zealand, about 2,000 people marched to the US Consulate in Auckland chanting “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter”.

There were also protests at Dam Square in Amsterdam.

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america-protests-washington

Police in the US fired tear gas outside the White House as anti-racism protestors again took to the streets to voice fury at police brutality.

With the Trump administration branding instigators of six nights of rioting as domestic terrorists, there were further confrontations between protestors and police and fresh outbreaks of looting.

Violent clashes erupted repeatedly in a small park next to the White House, with authorities using tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades to disperse crowds who lit several large fires and damaged property.

Trump slammed the protests in Washington DC, in particular, where some properties and monuments were vandalised as police struggled to disperse crowds.

“What happened in the city last night was a total disgrace,” he said in a national address yesterday.

“As we speak I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and wanton destruction of property.”

He called on State governors to “dominate the streets”.

His announcement came as police under federal command forced back peaceful demonstrators in the city with tear gas so that Trump could walk to a nearby church and pose with a bible.

Tuesday 2 June

Four US police officers are shot and wounded in the Midwestern city of St Louis, Missouri, during protests which turned violent.

Meanwhile, it emerges Australia is investigating a US police attack on two Australian television journalists outside the White House.

Footage showed one officer shoving Channel 7 News cameraman Tim Myers with a shield before punching him. Another officer was seen swinging at Myers as well as the station’s US correspondent Amelia Brace.

A Las Vegas police officer is also on life support after being shot in the head during scuffles between police and protesters.

More violence is expected across the US today.

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