Peaceful protesters and violent instigators defy curfews after George Floyd’s death

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Several cities across the US resembled war zones as crowds defied curfews to protest the death of George Floyd, who spent his last moments pinned under an officer’s knee on his neck, begging for his life.

Shouting through masks worn to protect themselves from the coronavirus, thousands poured onto streets Saturday night and into Sunday, decrying the death of another unarmed black man in police custody. 

Some were peaceful, denouncing the violence caused by instigators who hijacked civil protests and overshadowed their calls for justice.

In Washington, DC, more than 60 US Secret Service Uniformed Division Officers and special agents were injured from Friday night through Sunday morning near the White House during protests, according to a statement from the Secret Service. Eleven Metropolitan Police Department in the city also were hurt, including an officer who suffered multiple compound fractures to the leg, police said.

In Florida, 40 Tampa businesses were burglarized or looted, including five that were set on fire, police said.

In Nashville, instigators damaged several buildings and torched the historic courthouse.

A fire burns outside the Metro Courthouse in Nashville on Saturday.

In some cities, perpetrators threw bottles at officers or burned police cars

Police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and arrests. Some states called in National Guard soldiers by the hundreds to respond to the unrest. 

Mayors from at least 25 cities had issued curfews for Saturday night to try to prevent violence, but some curfews were ignored. On Sunday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lighfoot announced the city’s nightly curfew will continue until further notice.

Across the US, a familiar chant echoed during a fifth day of protests: “No justice, no peace.”

In Minneapolis, where Floyd died, a black protester told CNN he was rallying for his basic human rights. 

“I want to be able to go in a white neighborhood and feel safe. I want to be able, when a cop is driving behind me, I don’t have to clench, and be safe,” he said. 

“I want to be able to just be free and not have to think about every step I take.”

Outside groups are behind some of the violence, officials say

Federal law enforcement officials said they are aware of outside groups causing some of the violence, using the cover of the legitimate protests in Minneapolis and elsewhere. 

Those domestic extremist groups include white supremacists, anarchists and far-left extremists, some of whom have overlapping affiliations, the law enforcement officials said. 

On Sunday, President Donald Trump announced the US will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.

Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform.

Antifa positions can be hard to define, but many members support oppressed populations and protest the amassing of wealth by corporations and elites. Some employ radical or militant tactics to get their message across.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told CNN on Sunday that he blames outsiders for the city’s protests turning violent, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if Antifa was involved.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp also said he believed those involved in looting and violence were not joining the protests to demand justice for Floyd’s death, CNN affiliate WSB reported. Kemp said many of the violent instigators may not even be from the state.

In Chicago, Lightfoot said looters organized and possibly came from outside of the city. 

“There clearly was coordination, they were clearly listening to our radio traffic,” she said. “The number of U-Haul trucks that magically showed up in front of stores, car caravans that dropped people off and broke windows and then were hustling the goods out into the backs of the cars — absolutely, it was

In many parts of the country, authorities detained protesters who threw projectiles at police or damaged property. But some were outsiders who weren’t even part of the original protests. 

In New York City, 33 officers were injured overnight, including some who were seriously injured, a senior NYPD official told CNN. 

About four dozen police vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and more than 340 people were arrested, the official said. 

In Dallas, police arrested at least 74 people. In Atlanta, 51 people were arrested Saturday night and a small crowd remained out past the city’s 9 p.m. curfew, police said. 

Officials in some states have said many are coming just to wreak havoc. 

“Nothing we do to provide justice for George Floyd … matter(s) to any of these people who are out here firing upon National Guard, burning businesses of our communities,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz told reporters on Saturday.

A CNN analysis found about 80% of the 51 people booked into a Minneapolis jail during two days of protests are actually from Minnesota. 

Data from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office showed 43 of those 51 accused of rioting, unlawful assembly, burglary or damage to property had Minnesota addresses. 

In Philadelphia, where some 3,000 protesters gathered Saturday, Mayor Jim Kenney said the majority of those demonstrators were peaceful and expressed “our collective grief.”

“The people that were doing the actual protests were not the problem,” Kenney said. “The people who were actually marching for a purpose were not the problem. It was this ragtag group of people who were destructive folks, who were doing the things to our officers, to the buildings, setting cars on fire

For the past five days, thousands of protesters remained civil and never caused any unrest. Many knelt, others chanted, and some carried signs with Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”

Those were also the final words of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after a New York City police officer wrapped his arm around Garner’s neck, jerked him back and pulled him to the ground. 

Garner’s daughter said it’s “heartbreaking” that the Floyd family must endure what her family has suffered.

“The one thing that I would let them know is … there’s a lot of people out on the front line (protesting). They’re fighting for us,” Emerald Snipes-Garner told CNN on Sunday.

“They’re supporting us, and I would want (Floyd’s relatives) to know that they’re not alone, unfortunately.”

One community activist said while many protesters don’t condone violence, nonviolent pleas have “gone unnoticed for years.”

“This is what happens when people have experienced the deadliness of racism … over and over again,” said the Rev. William Barber, the Co-Chair of Poor People’s Campaign. “What we are seeing is public mourning.”

Americans and public officials have demanded justice against the four officers involved in 46-year-old Floyd’s death. All four were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department Tuesday. 

Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis officer seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His bail has been set at $500,000. 

New video posted on social media appears to show three Minneapolis police officers — not just Chauvin — kneeling on Floyd during his arrest. CNN has not been able to locate the person who shot the footage.

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