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Trump threatens to deploy troops to quell protests

June 2, 2020

US President Donald Trump says unrest arising from the killing of George Floyd constitutes "acts of domestic terror." A medical examiner has said the manner of Floyd's death was "homicide."

Protesters in shorts and t-shirts stand across from police in helmets and full riot gear
Image: DW/C. Bleiker

  • US President Donald Trump slams governors as "weak" and threatens deployment of "heavily armed troops" to quell nationwide protests
  • An official autopsy declares the manner of Floyd's death was "homicide"
  • Protests were largely peaceful, though some pockets of looting and violence
  • St. Louis Police confirmed four police officers were struck by gunfire during protests

Below is a roundup of how the protests unfolded. All times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

10:30 A city police chief has been sacked after a black business owner and beloved community figure in Louisville, Kentucky, was fatally shot early Monday. Riot police had been dispersing crowds when they were shot at and returned gunfire, killing David McAtee. 

McAtee, 53, owned a barbecue restaurant and was known for offering meals to police officers who stopped by. Demonstrators were protesting not just the killing of George Floyd, but also another recent police shooting of a resident of the city. 

By Monday afternoon, a group stretching several city blocks peacefully marched to the place where McAtee was shot. That same day, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also announced the firing of the city’s police chief, Steve Conrad. He said officers involved in the shooting had failed to activate body cameras at the scene. Authorities had sought footage for their investigation after the Kentucky governor demanded the release of the police video.

''This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated,'' Fischer said. ''Accordingly, I have relieved Steve Conrad of his duties as chief of Louisville Metro Police Department.''

07:12 Though some protests descended into violence, demonstrations against the death of George Floyd and police brutality in the US remained mostly peaceful. 

In New York City, large crowds rallied peacefully in Brooklyn and Manhattan's Times Square. But violence returned by nightfall, with vandals looting a Macy's and other stores on the 5th Avenue shopping district ahead of the city's curfew.

People in Washington once again gathered in Lafayette Park opposite the White House. They then marched peacefully through the streets of the city after being forced from the park after the 7:00 p.m. curfew. Police then dispersed peaceful protesters, who were blocks from the Capitol building, with tear gas, pellets, and low-flying helicopters.

07:46 Multiple police officers in St. Louis, Missouri, and in Buffalo, New York, were injured during clashes with protesters.

The St. Louis Police Department confirmed that four officers were struck by gunfire during a lengthy shootout that took place amid protests in the city. The injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

In Buffalo, in upstate New York, two law enforcement officers were injured when an SUV sped through a line of police in riot gear. Two people in the SUV had gunshot wounds, with the Buffalo News newspaper reporting that law enforcement believes it was possible the people were shot in an unrelated incident. The officers were in stable condition and a suspect has been detained, a police spokesman said.

03:52 Two men were arrested inside Macy's flagship store in Manhattan. Its door had been breached amid a citywide curfew. Other stores across Manhattan were hit by looting, including the Nike, AT&T and North Face stores.

City authorities have called on people to respect the curfew and stay inside. Since unrest erupted last week in the wake Floyd's death, at least 700 people have been arrested in New York.

03:07 A curfew has gone into effect in New York City as of 11:00 pm local time (0300 UTC). Despite efforts by authorities to restrict public gatherings overnight, protesters and rioters remained on the streets.

In the run-up to the curfew, storefront windows were smashed at several businesses, including Nike and AT&T stores in Manhattan.

Earlier, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on people to respect the curfew. However, due to expected violations, he extended it.

"These protests have power and meaning," said de Blasio. "But as the night wears on we are seeing groups use them to incite violence and destroy property. Our first priority is keeping people safe, so I'm extending the curfew to Tuesday. It will begin at 8pm."

Over in Washington D.C., DW's Alexandra von Nahmen said the situation had calmed down after police cleared protesters from the streets using tear gas. However, officers were now in the process of arresting demonstrators for defying the curfew there.

03:00 Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accused the US of upholding "double standards" concerning both governments' handling of protests.

"You know there are riots in the United States and we see how local governments reacted," said Lam. "Then in Hong Kong, when we had similar riots, we saw what position they adopted then."

02:24 Reverend Mariann Budde said she was "outraged" by Trump's visit to the historic St. John's Church, which forms part of her Episcopal diocese as bishop.

She said he did not "acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country."

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who heads the diocese, said the visit was overtly political and had nothing to do with spiritual matters.

"This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, lifted up a bible, and had pictures of himself taken," said Curry. "In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes."
Police used tear gas and sound grenades to clear protesters in front of the White House to make way for Trump to visit the church.

01:53 At least 5,600 people have been arrested amid nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd in police custody, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

In Minneapolis alone, at least 150 people have been arrested. Floyd was killed in the Minnesota city. In Los Angeles, nearly 1,000 arrests have been made, while in New York City, at least 700 people have been taken into custody.

01:24 Twitter founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey tweeted "police policy reform now."

His social media platform has come under fire from US President Donald Trump over the past week after it hid one of his tweets for "glorifying violence." Trump responded by issuing an executive order targeting social media for allegedly censoring content.

Trump often uses Twitter, long considered his preferred platform, as an informal way to push his domestic and foreign policy agenda.

01:16 Several US state governors have come out against Trump's threat to deploy the armed forces to quell nationwide protests.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Trump has "repeatedly proven he is incapable of governing and shown nothing but false bravado throughout the chaos that has accompanied his time in office."

"Now he uses the most supreme power of the presidency in a desperate attempt to hide his timidity and vapidity," said Inslee, a former presidential candidate. "I pray no soldier and no civilian is injured or killed by this reckless fit."

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said she would not use the National Guard to suppress protests, saying: "You don't diffuse violence by putting soldiers on the streets."

01:10 DW reporters on the ground in the US have been gauging public opinion at ongoing protests. Alexandra von Nahmen in Washington D.C. said people within the administration are concerned that Trump’s inability to strike the right tone to unite the nation may hurt his reelection chances. "But he himself believes stressing he is a 'law and order president' will help," she said. "But if he continues his present course, he may lose important voter groups, such as women and independents."

Stefan Simons is in Minneapolis at a memorial at the exact spot Floyd was killed last week. People from all walks of life have been attending a family event. When news of the autopsy results that Floyd died by suffocation filtered through, the reaction was simply "well, we knew that all along," Simons said.

00:39 George Floyd's family has accepted an offer by former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather to pay for his funeral.

"He'll probably get mad at me for saying that, but yes, he is definitely paying for the funeral," Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, told American sports broadcaster ESPN.

The funeral is expected to take place on June 9 in Houston, Floyd's hometown.

00:29 US President Donald Trump walked from the White House to a historic church that had been damaged during riots over the weekend.

Trump described the place church as a "very, very special place." St. John's Church in Washington DC has been described as the "church of the presidents."

"We have a great country," Trump said holding a Bible outside the church.

DW's Alexandra von Nahmen witnessed police firing tear gas and bang grenades to disperse protesters in front of the White House in order to make way for Trump to reach the church. 

23:59 The US isn't the only country where Floyd's death has triggered anger about racism. In an op-ed, DW's Chiponda Chimbelu said Europe is also home to institutional racial violence.

"For years, black men and women have been murdered and killed, in the US and Europe, even by the police, just because they are black," Chimbelu said.

"For us, George Floyd's killing is a reminder that racist violence sometimes results in death.

Read the op-ed: George Floyd killing opens racism wounds for European blacks

23:32 Former Vice President Joe Biden called on US authorities to "pursue justice with every ounce of our being."

Biden is running against Trump for the US presidency in elections slated for November.

"In this moment, the very soul of America is at stake," Biden said. "We have to finally make the real American promise: That all men and women are not only equal at creation, but throughout their lives."

23:07 Police in the nation's capital clashed with protesters in front of the White House as US President Donald Trump delivered an address to the nation.

The police fired tear gas in a bid to disperse the protesters, who earlier had shouted slogans such as "No justice, no peace."

"Enough is enough," one protester told DW earlier. "We are tired." 

22:51 US President Donald Trump said he is mobilizing "all available federal resources" to end nationwide riots triggered by the death of George Floyd.

Trump said he urged governors to "deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers so that we dominate the streets." The president said he would "deploy the United States military" if they do not take action.

He described attacks on law enforcement agents as "domestic terror." However, he did not acknowledge that the initial protests were triggered by Floyd's death in police custody.

"These are not acts of peaceful protest," Trump said. "These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God."

"What happened in the city last night was a total disgrace," he said as tear gas went off and crowds protested in the streets nearby.

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

He also named Antifa, an anti-fascist movement, as a chief "instigator" of the protests.

21:54 The Hennepin County medical examiner has declared George Floyd's death to be a homicide, according to an official statement.

The declaration comes after an independent autopsy found that Floyd had died of asphyxiation, in contrast to an official ruling that claimed he died due to pre-existing heart conditions.

The latest report said the manner of death was "homicide." 

"Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s)," the examiner said.

The statement added that "manner of death is not a legal determination of culpability or intent."

21:48 Protesters have gathered in front of the White House to denounce police brutality after Floyd's death in police custody.

According to DW's Carla Bleiker, they chanted slogans such as "No Justice, no peace" and "I can't breathe," the last words Floyd uttered before he died.

21:34 Protests against the systemic mistreatment of blacks by police have sparked violent confrontations since beginning peacefully last week. Take a look at how the demonstrations evolved in pictures: 

21:17 Recap: DW reporter Stefan Simons was shot at by police on Sunday, marking the second night in a row that law enforcement had deliberately targeted DW crew members with projectiles.

Simons, who was wearing a press jacket during both incidents, had identified himself as a journalist. Authorities also threatened to arrest him on Saturday.
This is not the first time that police have deliberately targeted members of the press. Last week, a CNN reporter was arrested while live on camera.

DW team in Minneapolis 

21:05 Outcry over the killing of George Floyd has gone international, with people taking to the streets in Berlin and London to show solidarity with US protesters. In Germany, soccer stars wore T-shirts and knelt in support. There have been protests outside the US embassy in Berlin while others are taking to art to express their solidarity.

21:00 Authorities in New York City imposed a curfew starting at 11:00 pm local time (0300 UTC) and ending at 05:00 am.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement along with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said he had spoken to the city's top law enforcement agent about "officers [who] didn't uphold the values of this city and of the NYPD."

Read more: US cities impose curfews as anti-police brutality protests persist

Cuomo, however, turned his attention to rioting that occurred in parts of the city over the weekend.

"I stand behind the protesters and their message, but unfortunately there are people who are looking to distract and discredit this moment," said Cuomo. "The violence and the looting has been bad for the city, the state and this entire national movement, undermining and distracting from this righteous cause."

20:45 The family of George Floyd received an autopsy report showing that he died of suffocation. The finding contrasts an official ruling that he had died from pre-existing heart problems.

"Independent medical examiners who conducted an autopsy of Floyd Sunday determined that asphyxiation from sustained pressure was the cause of death," said Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family.

The death of Floyd, an unarmed African American, during his arrest by a white police officer has triggered a wave of protests and riots across US cities.

20:40 George Floyd's brother voiced support for the protests, but urged people to refrain from violence and destruction, saying that it is "not going to bring my brother back at all."

"We still going to do this, peacefully," Terrence Floyd said at a vigil in Minneapolis, leading protesters in a chant of "peace on the left, justice on the right."

He added that although the protests "may feel good for the moment," they are causing harm and may prevent political change. "He would not want you all to be doing this," Floyd said.

Floyd's message of peace stood in stark contrast to that of US President Donald Trump who berated state leaders as "weak" for not cracking down harder on protesters.

20:30 Welcome to DW's rolling coverage of the protests sweeping the US in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. The 46-year-old African American died in Minneapolis last week after a police officer kneeled on his neck. Since then, the US has experienced its worst civil unrest since the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior in 1968.

ls/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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