Protesters defy curfews to return to US streets as Trump decries ‘lowlifes’
Most protests passed off peacefully.
Protesters have defied curfews as they streamed back to US streets, hours after President Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death.
The president also demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop what he termed the “lowlifes and losers”.
Most protests passed peacefully, and while there were scattered reports of looting in New York, the country appeared calmer than it did a day earlier, when violence swept through multiple cities.
The president, meanwhile, amplified his hard-line calls from Monday, when he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors did not do it.
“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”
One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing behind a black chain-link fence.
The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.
“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a protest on Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”
The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7pm curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful.
But the protest lacked the tension of previous demonstrations. The crowd on Tuesday night was peaceful, even polite. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”.
On Monday, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback aggressively drove protesters away from Lafayette Park, clearing the way for Mr Trump to do a photo opportunity at nearby St John’s Church. On Tuesday, pastors at the church prayed with demonstrators and handed out water bottles.
Protests ranged across the US, including in Los Angeles, Miami, Columbia, South Carolina and Houston, where the police chief talked to peaceful demonstrators, vowing reforms.
“God as my witness, change is coming,” said Art Acevedo. “And we’re going to do it the right way.”
In New York, Macy’s flagship store was among those hit when crowds of people smashed windows and looted stores as they swept through the area. Police made nearly 700 arrests and Mayor Bill de Blasio extended a curfew all week.
“We’re going to have a tough few days,” he warned, but added: “We’re going to beat it back.” He pleaded with community leaders to step forward and “create peace”.
Thousands of protesters marched on Tuesday night in a string of demonstrations across Manhattan and Brooklyn after traders boarded up their businesses, fearing a repeat of the night before.
Many people remained on the streets after the curfew hour. Police eventually ordered them to move along and began taking some into custody.
More than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence. New York is not among them, and Mr de Blasio has said he does not want them. On Tuesday, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo called what happened in the city “a disgrace”.
“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Mr Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany.
He said the mayor underestimated the problem, and the nation’s largest police force was not deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.
Tuesday marked the eighth straight night of the protests, which began in Minneapolis, where Mr Floyd died, and quickly spread across the country.
The mother of George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna, said she wanted the world to know that her little girl lost a good father.
“I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took,” Roxie Washington said. “I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good.”
A senior White House official said that the president is not rushing to send in the military and that his goal was to pressure governors to deploy more National Guard members.
Such use of the military would mark a stunning federal intervention rarely seen in modern American history.