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Protesting brutality against black people is 'right and necessary', but 'needless destruction' is not, says Joe Biden

Protests over police killings of black people reignited after George Floyd was killed during an arrest on Monday.

A police officer stands near a car burning in Austin, Texas.
A police officer stands near a car burning in Austin, Texas.
Image: Ricardo B. Brazziell/AP

Updated May 31st 2020, 10:03 AM

US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Joe Biden has condemned the violence of protests that have erupted across the United States, but said protesting brutality is “right and necessary”.

The Democratic White House hopeful said that the “act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest”.

Scenes of unrest heightened across several cities from New York to Tulsa to Los Angeles last night, where police fired rubber bullets to scatter crowds and at least one police car burned.

The protests – which began in Minneapolis on Monday following Floyd’s death after a police officer held a knee to his neck until he stopped breathing– have left parts of that city a grid of broken windows, burned-out buildings and ransacked stores.

The protests have since become a national phenomenon as people decry years of deaths of black people at police hands.

“Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response,” Joe Biden said in a statement.

But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.

“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.”

Trump

US President Donald Trump tweeted that: “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.”

Antifa is a loose-knit anti-fascist network that has been involved in protests across the US and has supporters elsewhere. 

“We cannot and must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities,” Trump had said yesterday. 

“My administration will stop mob violence. And we’ll stop it cold,” he added, Antifa supporters of orchestrating the violence.

embedded253942556 Demonstrators cover their face as people gather to protest the killing of George Floyd on Saturday outside the White House. Source: Evan Vucci/AP

Governors in several US states called in National Guard troops as protests intensified last night, police vehicles were set ablaze and injuries mounted.

More than 1,300 people have been arrested in 16 cities since Thursday and more than 500 of these happened in Los Angeles on Friday.

After a tumultuous Friday night, tens of thousands of people took to the streets again for mostly peaceful demonstrations in dozens of cities from coast to coast.

As on Friday, many protests descended into violence, with cars pushing into people in at least three cities.

In Washington, the National Guard was deployed outside the White House, where chanting crowds were taunting Secret Service agents. Dressed in camouflage and holding shields, the troops stood in a line a few metres away, preventing the crowd from pushing forward.

In Philadelphia, at least 13 officers were injured when peaceful protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire, amid other fires downtown.

In the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of a 1921 massacre of black people that left as many as 300 dead, protesters blocked intersections and chanted the name of Terence Crutcher, a black man killed by a police officer in 2016.

In Seattle, police fired tear gas and stun grenades to try to disperse crowds that smashed downtown shopfronts and stole merchandise.

In Los Angeles, protesters chanted Black Lives Matter. Police used batons to move the crowd back and fired rubber bullets, while a police car burned in the street.

In New York City, dangerous confrontations flared repeatedly as officers made arrests and cleared streets.

A video showed two NYPD cars lurching into a crowd of demonstrators who were pushing a barricade against one of them and pelting it with objects, knocking several people to the ground. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.

National Guard

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who said local forces had been overwhelmed on Friday, fully mobilised the state’s National Guard and promised a massive show of force. The Guard announced it had more than 4,000 members responding to Minneapolis and would quickly have nearly 11,000.

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“The situation in Minneapolis is no longer in any way about the murder of George Floyd,” Walz said.

“It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”

Soon after the city’s 8pm curfew went into force, lines of police cars and officers in riot gear moved in to confront protesters, firing tear gas to push away throngs of people.

The tougher tactics came after city and state leaders were criticised for not effectively confronting days of violent and damaging protests that included protesters burning down a police station soon after officers abandoned it.

embedded253942254 Smoke rises from a fire on a police vehicle in Philadelphia. Source: Matt Rourke/AP

Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics being used by law enforcement on Saturday night.

He commended the Guard deployment in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and also said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”

Speaking in Cape Canaveral earlier, Mr Trump warned his administration would “stop mob violence, and we’ll stop it cold”.

What we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or with peace. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonoured by rioters, looters and anarchists.

Earlier, Trump issued tweets taunting protesters and praising the Secret Service, who used shields and pepper spray to push back people gathered outside the White House to protest George Floyd’s death and the president’s response.

Trump tweeted he had watched from inside as officers “let the ‘protesters’ scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone …. got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them”.

The officer who held his knee to Floyd’s neck as he begged for air was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But many protesters are demanding the arrests of the three other officers involved.

- With reporting by Orla Dwyer

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