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Minnesota calls up 1,000 more soldiers as protests sweep US following George Floyd death

Several hundred people angrily rallied outside the White House, clashing with the secret service.

A protester yells at a member of the Minnesota National Guard.
A protester yells at a member of the Minnesota National Guard.
Image: John Minchillo/AP/Press Association Images

Updated May 30th 2020, 6:52 PM

FIRES HAVE BURNED unchecked and thousands of people are protesting in Minneapolis against the police killing of George Floyd – in defiance of a curfew.

Unrest has overwhelmed authorities for another night in the city in the state of Minnesota, with the governor acknowledging that he does not have enough manpower to contain the chaos.

Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets ridiculing people who protested outside the White House and praising the Secret Service who used shields and pepper spray to push them back. 

Hundreds of people had gathered on Friday night to protest against the police killing as well as Trump’s response.

The president tweeted he watched from inside the White House 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”.

minneapolis-police-death-washington-protest Demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd in Washington. Source: Evan Vucci/AP/Press Association Images

Trump said if the protesters had managed to breach the White House fence, “they would … have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen”.

The US president ended the last of five tweets by saying, “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”

The continued unrest, which has spread to other US cities, came despite Minnesota governor Tim Walz vowing yesterday to show a more forceful response than city leaders had the day before.

floyd-protests-in-atlanta After a peaceful march of hundreds to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, protestors returned to the area around the CNN Center where some confronted police amid outrage Source: Alyssa Pointer

However, by early this morning, Walz said he did not have enough troops, even with some 500 National Guardsmen.

“We do not have the numbers,” he said. “We cannot arrest people when we are trying to hold ground.”

Walz said he was moving quickly to mobilise more than 1,000 extra Guard members, for a total of 1,700, and was considering the potential offer of federal military police.

However, he warned that even that might not be enough, saying he expected another difficult night ahead.

The Pentagon has ordered the US army to put military police units on alert to head to the city on short notice, at President Donald Trump’s request, insiders said.

The rare step came as the violence spread to other cities, with a man shot dead in Detroit, police cars attacked in Atlanta and skirmishes with officers in New York City.

Criminal charges were filed on Friday morning against the white police officer who held his knee for nearly nine minutes on the neck of Mr Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed at the time. However, this has done nothing to stem the widespread anger.

floyd-protests-in-atlanta Source: Ben Gray

Troops deployed 

Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Minneapolis police said shots had been fired at officers during the protests, but no-one was injured.

As the night dragged on, fires erupted across the city’s south side, including at a Japanese restaurant, a Wells Fargo bank and an Office Depot. Many burned for hours, with firefighters again delayed in reaching them because areas were not secure.

On Thursday, protesters had torched a police station soon after it was abandoned by police and went on to burn or vandalise dozens of businesses.

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association urged Mr Walz to accept any help.

“You need more resources,” the group said in a tweet. “Law enforcement needs leadership.”

minneapolis-police-death-protests Police officers and protesters clash near CNN Center in Atlanta. Source: Mike Stewart/PA

Charges criticised  

Chauvin was also accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he pleaded that he could not breathe, while Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes.

Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit twenty dollar bill at a store.

Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.

An attorney for Floyd’s family welcomed the arrest, but said he expected a more serious murder charge, and wants the other officers arrested, too.

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Prosecutor Mike Freeman said more charges were possible, but authorities “felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator”.  

minneapolis-police-death-protests-california A boy holds a sign during a protest in downtown Los Angeles over the death of George Floyd. Source: Christian Monterrosa

‘Open wound’ 

Protests nationwide have been fuelled by outrage over Mr Floyd’s death and years of police violence against African Americans.

Protesters smashed windows at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, set a police car on fire and struck officers with bottles.

Large demonstrations in New York, Houston, Washington, DC, and dozens of other cities ranged from people peacefully blocking roads to repeated clashes with police.

“You are disgracing our city,” Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told protesters. “You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.”

A post-mortem examination said the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Mr Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. It revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death.

Trump said on Friday that he had spoken to Floyd’s family and “expressed my sorrow”.

He called video of the arrest “just a horrible thing to witness and to watch. It certainly looked like there was no excuse for it”.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Floyd’s family, asked to take custody of Floyd’s body for an independent post-mortem examination.

The doctor who will carry out the procedure is Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner of New York City.

He was hired to examine Eric Garner, a black man who died in 2014 after New York police placed him in a chokehold, and he pleaded that he could not breathe.

State and federal authorities also are investigating Mr Floyd’s death.

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