US protests as they happened: Demonstrators defied curfews across the country | News | DW | 03.06.2020
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US protests as they happened: Demonstrators defied curfews across the country

Protests were being held outside the White House, in New York and many major cities. Meanwhile, the EU said the killing of George Floyd was an "abuse of power." Read about how the protests unfolded here.

Thousands of demonstrators defied curfews to protest the death of George Floyd, marking the eighth night of demonstrations and clashes with police. In Seattle, protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray fired by police, while hundreds were arrested for breaking curfew and marching across the Manhattan Bridge in New York City.

In Washington, DC, people chanted slogans against US President Donald Trump outside the White House for more than an hour, even after the city imposed curfew at 6 p.m. local time (22:00 UTC). In Atlanta, the National Guard sought to disperse crowds as soon as the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect, and local media reported troops using tear gas to clear the streets.

Meanwhile, news and debate over the protests has continued to make waves across social media platforms. Several employees of Facebook resigned this week after CEO Mark Zuckerberg reaffirmed his support not to flag posts made by US President Donald Trump, following the flagging of a post made by Trump on Twitter.

Follow the events as the happened below:

All times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

08:48 Pope Francis condemned violence and racism in the US on Wednesday morning, saying that no one can "turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion."

Francis also referred to violence as "self-destructive and self-defeating."

Francis, who dedicated the entire English-language section of his weekly audience to the protests in the US, called the death of George Floyd "tragic," and asked God for national reconciliation and peace. Francis said he was praying for Floyd and all those who had been killed as a result of the "sin of racism."

07:45 Seattle protesters have been using umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray since Tuesday, evoking reminders of last year’s protests in Hong Kong.

Hundreds gathered in Seattle’s capitol hill neighborhood on Tuesday night, with dozens standing and chanting in front of a police barrier, with umbrellas in their hands. The scene was reminiscent of the pro-democracy Hong Kong protests, which saw millions take to the streets, many with umbrellas.

Seattle is under a nightly curfew which begins at 10 p.m. local time (05:00 UTC).

Protester holding up umbrella amid smoke in Seattle George Floyd (Reuters/L. Wasson)

A protester in Seattle holds up an umbrella as others flee tear gas

06:38 New York police have arrested about 200 protesters between 8 p.m. (midnight UTC) and 1 a.m. local time, a law enforcement official told CNN, adding that that figure is expected to increase.

In New York City, thousands of chanting protesters ignored an 8 p.m. curfew to march from the Barclays Center toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The crowd then stopped at an entrance to the Manhattan Bridge roadway, chanting at riot police: "Walk with us! Walk with us."

New York City has been one of the focal points of the anti-police brutality protests that have spread across the US, and has seen violent demonstrations resulting in looting and clashes with police.

Protesters in New York City are being prevented from exiting Manhattan Bridge (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Wenig)

Protesters in New York City are being prevented from exiting Manhattan Bridge

05:00 Police were forcefully trying to clear protesters still out on the streets past curfew in Washington DC, around 1 a.m. local time. After protesters clashed with police in Lafayette Park near the White House earlier this week, a new fence was put up around the park. 

Police were standing on the opposite side of the fence from the crowd of around 200 protesters, with officers using teargas and flash bangs to respond to fireworks and other projectiles being thrown by the demonstrators, CNN reported. The curfew there went into effect at 7 p.m.

03:42 Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly reaffirmed his support to not flag US President Donald Trump's social media content.

Twitter last week flagged and demoted Trump's tweet that referred to unrest in Minneapolis and threatened: "When the looting starts the shooting starts." However, on Facebook, the same message was allowed to remain on the platform without recourse.

Zuckerberg's defense has triggered a wave of resignations at Facebook. Last week, Zuckerberg cited freedom of expression as a motivator for not flagging the content.

"I know many people are upset that we've left the President's posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies," said Zuckerberg.

Watch video 01:56

Trump targets social media after Twitter fact check

03:00 The death of George Floyd last week whilst being restrained by police officers sparked a wave of protests that have spread across the US and throughout the world. Check out how things developed in our gallery here. 

02:16 Protesters in major US cities have defied curfews aimed at preventing looting and rioting.

In Washington D.C., protesters chanted slogans against US President Donald Trump outside the White House for more than an hour after a curfew went into effect at 06:00 pm local time (2200 UTC). 

In New York, protesters called on police to "take a knee" in support of the demonstrations against police brutality after a citywide curfew went into effect at 08:00 pm local time.

Journalist James Reinl in New York told DW that although many peaceful protesters had gone home, large groups of people were trying to get into Manhattan around an hour after the curfew began.

In Atlanta, the National Guard started to disperse crowds of protesters as soon as a 09:00 pm curfew went into effect. Local media reported troops using tear gas to clear the streets.

Other cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, were preparing for curfews to go into effect.

01:35 Mike Mullen, a retired Navy admiral who led the military from 2007 to 2011, said he was "sickened" at the use of National Guard troops to clear protesters demonstrating peacefully in front of the White House.

The protesters were dispersed using smoke canisters and pepper balls to make way for US President Donald Trump's walk to a historic church for a photo-op.

In the op-ed published in The Atlantic news magazine, Mullen also criticized Trump's threat to deploy the US military on American soil.

"Even in the midst of the carnage we are witnessing, we must endeavor to see American cities and towns as our homes and our neighborhoods," said Mullen. "They are not 'battle spaces' to be dominated, and must never become so."

A demonstration near the White House

Activists nationwide defied curfews despite President Donald Trump threatening to send the military into cities

01:22 Roxie Washington, the mother of George Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, said she wanted the world to know that he was a good father who would never see his daughter grow up now.

"I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took. At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families," Washington said at a news conference flanked by Floyd's daughter Gianna.

"I'm here for my baby and I'm here for George because I want justice for him," she said. "I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good."

00:54 US Park Police denied using tear gas against protesters who gathered in front of the White House on Monday, saying they instead used smoke canisters and pepper balls. Park Police said they dispersed the crowd in response to protesters throwing items at them, a claim that contrasts with AP reporters account of the incident.

Shortly after the protesters were dispersed, US President Donald Trump walked through the area en route to a historic church for a photo-op.

The Park Police's claimed motive also clashes with that given by Justice Department officials, who said the police were carrying out orders to further expand the security perimeter around the White House. That order was reportedly given by US Attorney General Andrew Barr.

00:10 Moments before a curfew took effect, hundreds of protesters in New York called on police to "take a knee" in solidarity with the movement.

However, the call was rejected as police stayed in their positions.

New York City council member Brad Lander posted a video on Twitter of hundreds of other protesters singing "We shall overcome."

"Here is the crowd at Barclay's Center that the Mayor is planning to impose a curfew on in 30 minutes," said Lander. "Take a listen and see if you think they should all be arrested. #BlackLivesMatter."


Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a citywide curfew after consecutive nights of looting in Manhattan.

23:09 Thousands of protesters gathered near the White House a day after a demonstration was dispersed with tear gas and stun grenades to make way for US President Donald Trump's photo-op at St. John's Church.

Protesters were heard chanting: "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now."

US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former presidential candidate, attended the protest, according Democratic Party lawyer Andrew Weinstein.

DW's Alexandra von Nahmen spoke to some of the hundreds of protesters who remained outside the White House in defiance of a 07:00 pm (2300 UTC) curfew. They told her they were upset by President Trump's threat to deploy the troops. One protester said "he's trying to scare and provoke us." 

22:51 US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on US President Donald Trump to be a "healer in chief," playing on the president's role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

"We would hope that the president of the United States would follow the lead of so many presidents before him to be a healer in chief and not a fanner of the flame," she said, referring to respective efforts by [former Presidents] Barack Obama and George Bush Sr. in the wake of the Rodney King riots and the death of Eric Garner in police custody.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Trump's Republican Party said he could "understand the outrage" over Floyd's death in the hands of police.

"There is no question that there is residual racism in America," McConnell said. "It's been a longtime dilemma and we all wish we could get to a better place."

22:34 A public prosecutor in Georgia charged six Atlanta police officers over their involvement in the dramatic arrest of two young black people.

Video of the arrest showed police officers using stun guns against Messiah Young, 22, and his girlfriend Taniyah Pilgrim, 20, who are both university students. They had been caught in traffic caused by protests triggered by Floyd's death in police custody.

At least two of the officers were fired on Sunday after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police chief Erika Shields found they had used excessive force during the arrest.

"I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able terrorize anyone else," said Young, who sustained serious injuries during the arrest.

"I'm so happy that they're being held accountable for their actions," added Pilgrim.

21:48 Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said more than 2,700 people have been arrested since unrest over Floyd's death in police custody erupted last week.

Moore urged residents in the Los Angeles metropolitan area to adhere to a 12-hour curfew going into effect at 06:00 pm local time (0100 UTC).

"As the night goes on we continue to work, arresting looters that are trying to take advantage of a tragedy," said the LAPD in a tweet. "We know we are living through unprecedented times, but we will continue to be here for you — 'to protect and to serve.'"

Earlier, police chief Moore apologized for remarks about looting in relation to Floyd's death.

"Looting is wrong, but it is not the equivalent of murder and I did not mean to equate the two," he said. "I deeply regret and humbly apologize for my characterization."

21:17 Police in the French capital Paris fired tear gas at protesters who were demonstrating against the deaths of black men in police custody. Protesters had gathered to honor the lives of George Floyd and French black man Adama Traore, who died in 2016.

Many of the thousands of protesters had taken a knee and raised their fist as police officers and firefighters struggled to disperse crowds and tackle small blazes.

Police said on Twitter that they had intervened because the protests were technically outlawed under coronavirus-related measures.

French protesters hold a banner reading No justice, no peace

French protesters hold a banner reading "No justice, no peace"

21:05 US Attorney General William Barr said the federal government would further bolster efforts to stop unrest in the nation's capital, Washington DC.

"There will be even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region tonight," said Barr, who is coordinating the federal law enforcement response in the capital. "The most basic function of government is to provide security for people to live their lives and exercise their rights."

Barr has come under fire for reportedly orchestrating the violent dispersal of peaceful protesters in front of the White House on Monday. Police shot tear gas and sound grenades in order to make way for US President Donald Trump's photo-op visit to St. John's Church.

DC city authorities have said they have rejected White House efforts coordinate and use force to quell protests. Barr's comments come a day after Trump threatened to deploy the US military on American soil.

20:25 The state of Minnesota filed a civil rights complaint against the Minneapolis Police Department over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers.

Governor Tim Walz said the state's Department of Human Rights will probe the police department's practices, reviewing the last 10 years of policies and procedures. 

The investigation will determine whether officers engaged in systemic discrimination towards people of color and also propose solutions on how to stop it from happening in the future. 

"Silence is complicity. Minnesotans can expect our administration to use every tool at our disposal to deconstruct generations of systemic racism in our state," Walz said. 

"Being black should not be a death sentence," he emphasized.

20:00 In an op-ed, DW's Miodrag Soric notes that writes that black Americans face an uphill battle in the fight for equal treatment in US society.

"Black people are not protesting in dozens of cities across the US because they feel they are being treated as second-class citizens, as one commentator claimed. They're protesting because they really are second-class citizens."

"On paper, every American citizen is equal before the law. But in reality, US police stop people on the street simply because of their appearance, even when they're not seen as suspects."

Read more of his op-ed here: Opinion: US racism part of everyday life

19:40 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a full 20-second pause before answering a reporter's question on President Donald Trump's handling of the protests in the US.

The silence came when a journalist asked the Canadian leader during a press conference to comment on Trump's threat to use the military on protesters.

After taking a long pause, Trudeau eventually answered: "We all watch in horror and consternation what's going on in the United States."

"It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen, it is a time to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades," he said, noting that Canada must also work to address racial inequality and discrimination.

19:30 New York City's new curfew that is due to come into force on Tuesday has already been extended until the end of the week.

The 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (0000 to 0900 UTC) curfew will now run until June 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.

A curfew on Monday that began at the later time of 11:00 p.m. failed to deter people from looting several stores in Manhattan, he said.

The mayor added that officials would not be deploying National Guard soldiers as in other states, saying the New York Police Department's 36,000 officers could handle any unrest. The police

Nighttime curfews are also in effect for dozens of cities across the US, including Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. Depending on the area, protesters could face fines or jail time for staying out past the curfew.

19:20 US presidential hopeful Joe Biden has launched a withering attack on Donald Trump in the wake of the protests across the United States.

"He thinks division helps him," Biden said in a speech at Philadelphia's City Hall. "This narcissism has become more important than the nation's wellbeing."

Biden spoke of the moment law enforcers drove back peaceful protesters near the White House on Monday so Trump could pose with a Bible. "If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something," Biden said as he criticized authorities for using "tear gas and flash grenades in order to stage a photo op."

"We can be forgiven for believing the president is more interested in power than in principle," Biden added. "More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.''

He said the killing of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police that sparked the protests, was a "wake-up call" for the country and it must now address the issue of systemic racism.

"We can’t leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away and do nothing," Biden said. "We can’t."

19:00 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the anti-police brutality protests in the US were "more than legitimate" and that he hopes they will spark change.

"I can only express the hope that the peaceful protests don't turn violent, and even more the hope that they will have an impact," he added.

He also called for press freedom for reporters covering the protests, saying that the German government will contact US authorities to support a DW journalist who was fired at and hampered from doing his job.

"Any violence that occurs in this context not only has to be criticized — above all it has to be properly followed up and investigated so that journalists are protected when they are doing their work," Maas said.

Read more: Germany's top diplomat: George Floyd protests 'legitimate,' urges press freedom

DW's Stefan Simons was shot at by police on two separate occasions while covering the Minneapolis protests. He was wearing a press jacket during both incidents and had identified himself as a journalist.

Watch video 00:40

Germany to take up DW reporter incident with US

18:45 Thousands of protesters gathered at Paris’ main courthouse to show solidarity with US protesters denouncing the killing of George Floyd and to condemn the death of a black man — Adama Traore — in French police custody.

Paris police banned the gathering a few hours before it was supposed to begin, citing coronavirus restrictions prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

Traore — a French citizen — died shortly after his arrest in 2016. His family says he died from asphyxiation in the hands of police and, echoing Floyd, that his last words were: "I can’t breathe."

Investigations into Traore’s death are still ongoing four years after his death due to conflicting medical reports. 

The lawyer for two of the three police officers involved claims that Traore didn’t die as a result of the conditions of his arrest but due to a pre-existing medical condition. 

Similar protests honoring Traore and Floyd are also taking place in other cities throughout France.

18:25 The European Union's top foreign policy official has said the bloc is "shocked and appalled" by the killing of George Floyd, describing his death as an "abuse of power."

"All societies must remain vigilant against the excessive use of force," Borrell told reporters in Brussels. 

He emphasized that Europeans "support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions."

18:00 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 for several minutes, despite crying out "I can't breathe." Since then, the US has experienced its worst civil unrest since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

lc,ls, rs/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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