Hundreds of Londoners defied coronavirus restrictions and rallied outside the US embassy on Sunday, in solidarity with protests raging across the United States over the death of an unarmed black man during an arrest.
The death of George Floyd in Minnesota has sparked five consecutive nights of often violent protests that resulted in National Guard troops patrolling majority US cities on Sunday.
The London protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace” and held up “Black Lives Matter” signs outside the US embassy compound on the southern bank of the Thames River.
A few hundred had earlier gathered in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London for a vigil that saw everyone kneel for nine minutes — to commemorate the amount of time the policeman kneeled on Floyd’s neck.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called footage of the incident “very distressing.”
But he refrained from commenting on US President Donald Trump’s explosive tweets and controversial public statements about the protests.
“I’ve long kept to the self-imposed guidance not to comment on what President Trump says,” Raab told the BBC.
Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major US cities after five consecutive nights of protests over racism and police brutality that boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country.
A senior White House official, echoing US President Donald Trump, blamed anarchists and far left activists for the violence while local leaders appealed to citizens to give constructive outlet to their rage without destroying their communities.
“There are some people in our streets who are driven there by a passion for our community,” said Melvin Carter, the African American mayor of St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota and twin city of Minneapolis, the epicenter of the protests.
“And then there’s folks in our streets who are there to burn down our black-owned barbershops, to burn down our family-owned businesses, our immigrant-owned restaurants,” he said on CNN.
The death Monday of Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited this latest wave of outrage in the US over law enforcement’s repeated use of lethal force against African Americans — this one like others before captured on cellphone video.
From Seattle to New York, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding tougher murder charges and more arrests over the death of Floyd, who stopped breathing after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Curfews were imposed in places around the US, including Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Seattle. About 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in 15 states and Washington, DC.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz mobilized the state’s 13,000 National Guard troops to help restore order while police enforced an overnight curfew after rioters looted shops and set fires in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to clear streets of curfew-violators Saturday night in Minneapolis, and National Guard troops protected the state capitol in St. Paul.
A Minneapolis police spokesman, John Elder, said a man’s body was found near a burning vehicle early after firefighters were called to the scene.
It was unclear if the death, which was being investigated as a homicide, was connected to the unrest in the city.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state-wide disaster Sunday following weekend protests that turned violent and destructive.
The order allows Abbott to designate federal agents to do the work of local police. It came as some Texas organizers called off demonstrations and others are planning to proceed.
In Los Angeles, officers fired rubber bullets and swung batons during a testy standoff with demonstrators who set fire to a police car. Stretched emergency services scrambled to put out two blazes on Melrose Avenue, as similar scenes played out in Washington, with officials extinguishing a major fire at a hotel off Layfayette Square.
Looting occurred in Miami, where a curfew was also announced, while in New York mayor Bill de Blasio said a video appearing to show an NYPD police car drive into protesters in Brooklyn was “upsetting” but that he did not blame the officers.
There were also multiple instances of journalists covering the protests being wounded, with reports of pepper balls and rubber bullets being used on members of the press
In Washington, protesters faced off with secret service agents outside the White House for a second straight night, as Trump faced the most serious spate of civil unrest of his presidency, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Multiple arrests were reported by US media in Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York as rallies continued through the night.
Target said Sunday that it is temporarily closing 105 stores in 10 states, after several were broken into during protests. CVS said it too was temporarily closing stores. CVS did not say how many stores it closed, but it said the shuttered locations are in more than 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Trump blamed the extreme left for the violence, including widespread looting and arson in Minneapolis, saying rioters were dishonoring the memory of Floyd.
“We cannot and must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities,” Trump said.
“My administration will stop mob violence. And we’ll stop it cold,” he added, accusing the loose-knit militant anti-fascist network Antifa of orchestrating the violence.
Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security advisor, also accused organized radicals of cross state lines “to burn down our cities.”
“And it’s got to be stopped. And we expect law enforcement to get to the bottom of it for sure,” he said on CNN.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemned the violence of the protests, but said on Sunday that US citizens had every right to demonstrate.
“Protesting such brutality is right and necessary,” he said. “But burning down communities and needless destruction is not.”
Peaceful protests occurred too, including in Toronto as the movement spread beyond America’s borders.
Demonstrators nationwide chanted slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” which Floyd, who has become a fresh symbol of police brutality, was heard saying repeatedly before he died.