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US cities extend curfews as anti-racism protests persist

June 1, 2020

Peaceful protests took place across US cities, but pockets of looting prompted officials to introduce curfews to avoid violence. President Trump blamed the far left for violence, while others pointed to the far right.

White House protest for George Floyd
Image: Reuters/J. Ernst

DW team in Minneapolis 

Curfews were extended into Monday morning in dozens of US cities, as clashes between police and protesters demonstrating against police brutality continued unabated. 

Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Detroit and Washington were all among major US cities put under curfews. The southwestern state of Arizona instituted a state-wide, weeklong curfew after demonstrators there occupied city streets and battled police.

Some 5,000 national guard soldiers have been deployed in 15 US states, as well as in the capital city Washington, in order to provide support to overwhelmed local law enforcement.

During the day, protests were largely peaceful in large metropolitan areas, but pockets of looting activity had led authorities to impose curfews ahead of possible clashes in the evening.

Police shoot at DW reporter 

In Minneapolis, tensions were still high. The midwestern city has been the epicenter of the latest protest movement, where George Floyd died in police custody when a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The police officer was charged with murder on Friday. 

On Sunday, a tanker truck barrelled into a crowd of thousands of people protesting on a Minneapolis highway, according to video shared on social media and TV footage, in what the Minnesota Department of Public Safety called a "very disturbing" incident. Officials say no one appeared to be have been hit. 

DW reporter Stefan Simons, who was onsite at the highway to report on the incident, said he was shot at by police for the second night in a row. The confrontation came after he and his crew were told to leave the scene and drive away. Shortly after getting into the car, police then shot projectiles at the team. 

Simons has been harassed several times by law enforcement while reporting on the ground in Minneapolis. On Saturday night, Simons' team was shot at by police, and, in a separate incident, he was also threatened with arrest.

Radical groups blamed

A litany of videos cycled through social media showing police officers pushing demonstrators to the ground, shooting rubber bullets at journalists, and, in New York City, a police car forcing its way through protesters after being surrounded, all instances that have led to criticism against police response to the protests.

President Donald Trump was active on Twitter on Sunday, blaming Democratic mayors and governors for the disorder and urging them to "get tough." 

Trump accused Antifa, a loose network of left-wing affiliated groups that define themselves by their opposition to fascism, of being responsible for most of the unrest. Federal law enforcement has insisted that far-left groups have pushed for violence.

Experts who track extremist groups, as well as news outlets including Vice News, have pointed to evidence that far-right groups have stoked violence. State officials have also suggested that far-right white nationalists, as well as left-wing extremists, have been involved in the violence. 

Later in the day, Trump tweeted that he would designate Antifa a "terrorist organization," even though the president alone does not have the power to make such a declaration on behalf of the US.

Protests reach the White House

Shortly after Washington began its curfew at 11:00pm local time (04:00 UTC), protesters set fires near the White House.

Police fired a barrage of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd of more than 1,000 people who had gathered at Lafayette Park, across the street from the presidential residence. 

Protesters piled up road signs, plastic barriers, tree branches and even an American flag, and ignited a large fire in the middle of H Street, near the White House. 

It was the third night that protesters demonstrated on the president's doorstep. A New York Times report on Sunday said that Trump was rushed by Secret Service agents into an underground bunker at the residence on Friday night. 

The last time the bunker had been used was during the September 11 attacks in 2001, when then-Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were temporarily sheltered there.

In Germany, 1,500 protesters gathered for a third straight day in Berlin on Monday to march in solidarity with the US protesters and call for justice for Floyd. In the southern German city of Munich, some 350 people also staged a protest against police brutality.

jcg/stb (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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