After days of turbulent rallies and violent unrest across the country sparked by the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, protests continued in dozens of cities on Saturday as the nation reckoned with deadly police brutality and systemic racism.
Demonstrators across the country held signs bearing some of Floyd's final words before he died while being kneed in the neck in a chokehold by a white police officer. "Get your knee of my neck," read a sign in Brooklyn. "I can't breathe," read another in Minneapolis.
Others paid tribute to Floyd's memory. "Justice for George," read the sign of one protester draped in the American flag and marching through the streets of Anchorage, Alaska. Across the Pacific Ocean, the same words appeared on signs at a small demonstration on the island of Hawaii.
But there was violence, too. In Philadelphia and Los Angeles, police vehicles were set ablaze and vandalized. In Columbus, Ohio, authorities pepper-sprayed surging crowds of demonstrators that included a US congresswoman. Outside the White House in the nation's capital, people jumped on the windshields of a cop car.
"The death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis was a grave tragedy. It should never have happened," President Trump said Saturday in remarks in Florida, after stoking tensions with protesters throughout the week by calling them "thugs," threatening to shoot them and set "vicious dogs" on them. He added, "I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack, and menace."
Trump is the focus of ire for many of the protesters. "It’s not just police," one activist told a large crowd outside the Brooklyn Public Library. "We need to get that orange fucking clown out of that fucking office."
Amid a global pandemic of a respiratory illness, Friday's rallies saw mass arrests and the use of tear gas by police in major cities as officers clashed with demonstrators who lit fires and damaged property. A police van was set ablaze in Brooklyn. Local businesses were burned in Minneapolis.
As day broke, black protesters calling for peaceful demonstration raised concerns that white demonstrators were instigating violence.
In Oakland, a federal security officer for the Department of Homeland Security was shot dead and his colleague injured in the Friday demonstrations there. The FBI said they were investigating a motive, but DHS Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli called the shooting an act of domestic terrorism.
Despite many Friday night protests running until the early hours, demonstrations kicked off again on Saturday and ran through the day.
It’s the fifth day of unrest in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, clean up crews swept streets and picked up debris after Friday night’s protests. A choir sang in the Cup Foods parking lot where Floyd was killed.
An 8pm curfew is still in effect, with highways closed across the city from 7pm. “We will not accept George Floyd’s death,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, as local leaders called on people to stay inside Saturday night, “and we will not accept the destruction of our communities either.”
To control crowds as the moved towards the building, city officials even raised multiple bridges over the Chicago River. Kneeling outside Trump Tower, they then chanted the names of Floyd and Taylor.
But it wasn't all peaceful. Some broke into a Macy's department store and made off with designer bags. Others kicked and danced on top of police cars.
A bus driver beeped her horn in support of protesters surrounding her bus, chanting “black lives matter.”
NYPD officers used pepper spray against protesters in Brooklyn, with protesters offering each other bottles of water to clean their eyes.
“It’s bigger than George Floyd,” said Drag, a man marching in Brooklyn who declined to give his last name. “It’s about how all African-American men have to be scared of the police even if they’re unarmed.”
Video showed NYPD cars moving at high speed through the streets as some protesters threw metal barricades at them.
Police announced a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. “Only persons with essential duties will be permitted outdoors,” officials tweeted.
Outlaw said that police had begun making arrests for violating curfew.
Protesters were also seen breaking windows at City Hall and looting a nearby Starbucks.
In a nod to the city’s history of police brutality, protesters spray painted “PIGS” and “FTP” on a nearby statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo, and tried to set fire to it. Rizzo served as police commissioner in the early 1970s before being elected mayor and has been criticized for how he handled raids of the Black Panther party and a violent shootout with the black liberation group MOVE.
“The peaceful protests earlier were touching showings of our collective grief. The anger being displayed now cannot continue. Please have respect and dignity for each other and return home,” Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted.
Hundreds of demonstrators boarded the I-695 on ramp while chanting, holding signs, and slowing traffic.
In Lafayette Park, protesters shouted “I can’t breathe!” as park police demanded they leave the area.
Some demonstrators outside the White House burned a flag; others threw bottles of water at police.
Later in the evening, as Trump returned to the White House from viewing the NASA launch in Florida, flying high over demonstrations in Marine One, protesters gave him the middle finger.
I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.