Sunday Night's Protests Against Police Brutality Were A Mix Of Chaotic Violence And Peaceful Demonstrations
The demonstrations, taking place under curfews, have been heated, with some cities marred by looting.
After the nation burned and police and civilians battled on Saturday evening, people demonstrating against systemic racism and police brutality in America took to the streets again across the US.
By Sunday evening there was a clear division between the unfolding events. On one hand were the protests, which saw violent fights between police and demonstrators and fires set across the nation, including outside the White House. And on the other, there was looting, which can barely be described as part of the protest movement. Sometimes, this split was seen in different areas of the same city.
Mayors, scrambling to avoid a repeat of Saturday night, implemented curfews to try to keep people home to varying degrees of success. Governors also called in the National Guard. As of Sunday morning, 5,000 soldiers were activated in 15 states, with another 2,000 at the ready. And at least 4,100 people have been arrested in the US since last Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Overall, though the situations in Washington, DC, Seattle, Philadelphia, Santa Monica, New York City, and Atlantic City grew very tense, it did not approach the utter chaos of Saturday — a low bar.
Floyd, 46, died on Monday after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a knee chokehold on him. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder.
In Louisville, Taylor, 26, was fatally shot in her home by police officers on March 13.
Thousands of people swarmed the city for another day of protests. Hundreds of people scattered in the late afternoon on the I-35 when a tanker truck drove into a crowd blocking the highway. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was hit as crowds immediately swarmed the truck before authorities moved in to secure the area.
One witness told KARE 11 that the truck driver “was holding his horn down the entire time” before he drove into the crowd. Traffic did not appear to be barricaded where the truck drove onto the bridge at the time, she added.
Sadie Artis, 24 of Minneapolis, told BuzzFeed News she was in the crowd on the highway when the truck barreled down.
"Everyone got fucking trampled," she said. "It just didn’t stop when it saw the crowd."
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety later announced on Twitter that it did not appear anyone had been hit by the truck, but that the driver was released from a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Citing his "very disturbing actions," the department said the driver, who was not immediately identified, was under arrest.
Officials later said the tanker had been on the road as they were closing it, and hadn't gone through any barricades.
Police advanced on the remaining protesters on the highway with tear gas, and demonstrators threw bottles.
After pushing the protesters back, all of the police and military vehicles left. The remaining demonstrators continued marching.
Police also warned that "incendiary materials and accelerants (like water bottles filled with gasoline) have been found hidden in bushes and throughout neighborhoods in Minneapolis" and urged the public to call 911 if they came across something suspicious.
Another epicenter for the movement, and where Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in her home, saw another full day of protesting.
Following a night of unrest on Saturday, Louisville reenacted its 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. curfew on Sunday. However, demonstrators made a gesture to acknowledge last night’s events by congregating in peace with a “healing ceremony.”
A singer performed to a large crowd that mostly stood silent with occasional cheers. Local reporters noted that hundreds of protesters were gathered outside a sports arena in silence as various songs were performed.
Still, as it grew closer to nighttime, the city prepared for potentially another night of unrest by deploying the National Guard troops downtown.
Santa Monica, California
By Sunday afternoon, looters had already attacked the popular shopping destination 3rd Street Promenade, prompting dozens of police officers to stream into the area after officials called for a 4 p.m. curfew.
People were still walking up from the beach carrying towels as looters descended on downtown. Most all businesses on 4th Street, right by the tourist-favorite promenade, were pillaged and destroyed.
The violence seemed to catch bystanders completely off guard. Joggers and families dodged people racing by carrying bags full of clothes and shoes from nearby shops, like RoadRunners and REI, which looters broke into using a Bird scooter. Half-drank, salt-rimmed margaritas and a pitcher of water were left on a table outside a shuttered Mexican restaurant as people broke into the resale shop, Crossroads, right next store.
Many of the protesters dispersed as officers moved in, but a small group held their ground. As police surrounded their position, demonstrators were arrested and taken away one by one, even as some said they wanted to leave but were trapped.
Among those detained was BuzzFeed News reporter Brianna Sacks, who was only released after proving her media credentials.
At one point, protesters were hiding behind plywood barricades, chanting "hands up, don't shoot" as police fired an unknown weapon.
“It was a 1,000% peaceful protest and they’re actually shooting god-knows-what,” Jasper Rischen, who took the above video, told BuzzFeed News.
After a night of fire and conflict, Philadelphia authorities began enforcing a 6 p.m. curfew on Sunday.
Minutes before a small group of protesters and police clashed, at least six people were then handcuffed on the sidewalk, according to Fox 29. There were also reports of looting at a Target elsewhere in the city.
A protest outside police headquarters — called the Roundhouse — broke up without incident as the curfew approached, the Inquirer reported.
SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transit network, also shut down at 6 p.m. to encourage people to stay home.
Protesters also took a knee outside the Municipal Building, next to City Hall, which includes a statue of former mayor and police commissioner, Frank Rizzo, who was widely considered to deploy racist tactics. Police guarded the plaza leading up to the building.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced that all city operations on Monday, besides public safety, will be closed.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
A small protest through the streets of Atlantic City remained heated, but overall peaceful by late afternoon.
Demonstrators began by talking in the street and boardwalk, chanting slogans and calling for justice for Floyd, according to Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Amy Rosenberg.
Protesters took to the steps of the public safety building, chanting “no racist police.” At one point, a lieutenant knelt in solidarity.
Two of the most symbolic moments came when protesters passed Trump’s former casino, Trump Plaza, which is now shuttered and scheduled to be condemned.
They marched past the building on the Pacific Avenue side while chanting “I can’t breathe."
However, later in the evening, people smashed windows and took items from some stores on Atlantic Avenue. And protesters began facing off with police, who rolled out a tank and riot shields, outside City Hall, Rosenberg reported.
New York City
Thousands of protesters turned out at several protests across Manhattan and Brooklyn after a night of riots.
The marches began peacefully, with a few skirmishes between police and demonstrators — and some arrests of black protesters — near the Barclays Center arena and Manhattan.
On Flatbush Avenue, people unfurled a huge banner that read “George Floyd.”
And in Manhattan, protesters chanted “NYPD take a knee” — and several did, in a moment of solidarity.
It was a recurring theme throughout the day.
But as the evening wore on, fights broke out between officials and civilians, dumpsters were set on fire, and there was looting in lower Manhattan. A reporter for the New York Daily News reported many people were being arrested in Brooklyn and that he had been hit with a police baton. Others reported glass bottles and other objects being hurled in the air. Near the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, police clashed with demonstrators as they attempted to clear the area.
Across town, police officers in riot gear attempted to disperse protesters who had gathered in lower Manhattan. Nearby, fires were set in dumpsters and storefronts were shattered.
Chiara de Blasio, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter, was arrested around 12th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, the NYPD said, alleging she was in the street with other protesters and didn’t leave when police told them to. Her father has presented a pained response to the protests over the past few nights, trying to support both extreme police tactics and the larger protest movement.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot once again set strict parameters for the city in an effort to contain people and another night of protesting.
Bridges at the Chicago river dividing the residential areas north of the city’s downtown Loop area remained up on Sunday, closing off any movement between the two sides.
Lightfoot also announced that she’d requested a “small contingent" of the National Guard to maintain a presence around downtown areas. She also reinforced the 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew “in order to ensure we don’t have a repeat of last night,” she tweeted.
The city’s public transit system suspended all bus and rail services starting at 6:30 p.m. The announcement was sent to residents via an emergency text alert 15 minutes before services were planned to halt. This sent people frustrated, stuck, and scrambling to find last-minute rides home.
While reports of looting continued through the end of the weekend — many new ones moving into the suburbs, demonstrations of peaceful and organized protests were also seen throughout the city.
As the state governor was giving his address, protesters marched past government buildings yelling “Black Lives Matter.” At one point, a group laid on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs in handcuffing position. They then began chanting Floyd's dying words: “I can’t breathe.”
New crops of demonstrators even organized themselves in some of Chicago’s most affluent and predominantly white suburbs.
After several days of violent clashes between protesters and police and Secret Service officers in Washington, DC, large groups of activists seemed to have spent much of the day standing in and chanting stark messages like, “Stop killing black people.”
Other chants synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement like “hands up, don’t shoot” were also heard moving through the city. Large droves of people then made their way to the White House.
Multiple people also filmed police officers apparently taking a knee as they barricaded crowds of protesters.
However, things were "starting to get tenser as the sun sets,” BuzzFeed News’ Addy Baird reported. Baird heard explosions go off from demonstrators and mace being sprayed from police.
After protesters knocked down metal barriers, “police deployed something that ha[d] ppl coughing,” BuzzFeed News' Kadia Goba, who was also on the scene, tweeted. The chants then began escalating to things like, “No justice, no peace, no racist ass police.”
There were ongoing volleys of pepper spray and tear gas from police and firecrackers, bottles, and traffic cones from protesters.
Goba also captured a woman being detained for allegedly assaulting an officer.
Amid the tension, there were moments of kindness and even calm. A man with a saxophone broke out a rendition of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” which seemed to have brought some levity to what was an otherwise intense face-off. People even momentarily joined in song.
Later, things descended into chaos as a protester threw a downed traffic light through the window of a nearby Veterans Affairs building, and started a fire from broken tree branches.
As helicopters hovered overhead amid loud bangs and police fired what protesters said appeared to be rubber bullets, one woman near a BuzzFeed News reporter said, “This feels like some Lord of the Flies shit.”
Police in Austin deployed smoke and tear gas on a group of protesters who had gathered on a major highway to demonstrate against police brutality.
The Austin Police Department initially denied deploying tear gas, but later said in a follow-up tweet that it had in fact been deployed to get people off Interstate 35, one of the major highways that runs through Texas.
“It is unsafe to be on a high speed roadway, and can endanger drivers and pedestrians,” the department said on Twitter.
The protesters were on the highway near downtown after marching near the state capitol building, KXAN reported. Thousands of people showed up to protest, even though the event Sunday had been technically canceled by the organizer, the Austin Justice Coalition.
Chas Moore, the group’s leader, said the protests that had been occurring over the weekend, which led to more than a dozen arrests according to the Austin Statesman, had been taken over by white people who are “colonizing” black pain to “just completely become anarchists in this moment.”
“Here in Austin, if you look at what happened yesterday, it was predominately white people doing what they want to do and there’s no way with good mind and with a good conscience that we can have this event today because there’s no way possible for us to ensure the safety of black folk,” Moore told KXAN.
The rally had been organized in memory of several high-profile killings of black people in recent months, but also in memory of Mike Ramos. Ramos, a 42-year-old Austin resident, was killed on April 24 by a police officer as he attempted to drive away from the scene, the Austin Statesman reported. On Friday, the newspaper reported that Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced she would be presenting the case to the grand jury.
Ramos’ mother, Brenda, issued a plea on Saturday to the Austin Statesman, begging protesters to not turn violent.
“I am pleading with the community: Please do not commit violence in my son Mike’s name,” she said. “There will be people of all ages, including children and older folks at the March for Black Lives (on Sunday). No one should be afraid to come and make their voice heard because of fear of violence. Please do not give the Austin Police Department any excuse to shut down Sunday’s peaceful rally.”
National Guard troops surrounded Los Angeles City Hall Sunday as the county imposes a 6 p.m. curfew after nights of violence and vandalism.
Police also shut down off-ramps into Santa Monica, where looting had already started in the afternoon, from the 10 Freeway and 101 Highway, and told people to avoid the downtown LA area.
Merchants in downtown were still cleaning up after looters ransacked the area during recent protests and clashes with police.
A pair of Atlanta police officers who tased two college students who were leaving a downtown protest on Saturday night have been fired, mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a press conference on Sunday according to CBS 46.
Bottoms said the cops would be fired for using “excessive force,” saying she found the footage “disturbing.”
"After extensive review of that footage, Chief Shields and I made the determination that two of the officers involved in that incident will be terminated immediately," Bottoms said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The three other officers are right now on desk duty."
College students Messiah Young, 22, and Teniyah Pilgrim, 20, were recorded on camera by CBS 46 being pulled from their vehicle by the police officers, who broke the car window. Pilgrim was not charged, and Young’s charges were dropped, the news station reported.
The city is currently under a 9 p.m. curfew, which went into effect on Saturday night. The Atlanta Police Department said on Twitter 157 people were arrested on Saturday in connection with the protests.
Alumni and students of HBCUs gathered on Sunday afternoon in downtown Atlanta protest called “#HBCU4BlackLives.” The peaceful protest marched through the city before gathering together in Centennial Olympic Park.
“I am a single black mother. I believe this movement today will improve the future for our babies,” Johnika Williams who brought her baby to the march, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Adolfo Flores reported from Minneapolis, Brianna Sacks from Los Angeles, Stephanie McNeal, Rosalind Adams, and Amber Jamieson from New York, Tanya Chen from Chicago, and Addy Baird and Kadia Goba from Washington, DC.