Minneapolis is burning.
For a third straight night, the Midwestern city saw clashes between police and protesters after the death of George Floyd, a black man whose arresting officer was recorded kneeling on his neck for minutes on end.
The four officers involved have been fired and the incident is under federal investigation, but demonstrators are not satisfied. Some of them stormed the 3rd Police Precinct, the closest precinct to the site of Floyd’s arrest, setting fire to that building after police withdrew in an attempt to mitigate tensions. Rioters burned and looted other buildings in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The region has seethed since the release of the video depicting Floyd’s arrest by a white police officer. During the video, the officer plants a knee on his neck for at least seven minutes as Floyd cries for help and eventually falls silent, while bystanders shout that he’s dying.
The officer did not remove his knee until paramedics showed up to move Floyd’s unresponsive body into an ambulance. He was reported dead later that night.
Now, the city is struggling to cope with the fallout. Here is the latest on the situation:
During a news conference Friday morning, the Minnesota governor acknowledged the pain of those outraged by Floyd’s death in police custody — whose name he added to a list of “unheard” black men killed by police, including Philando Castile, who was shot in 2016 by police nearby in a suburb of St. Paul.
“The very tools that we need to use to get control to make sure that buildings aren’t burned and the rule of law doesn’t collapse are those very institutional tools that have led to that grief and pain. I understand clearly there is no trust in many of our communities,” Walz told reporters.
“But I’m asking you to help us use humane ways to get the streets to a place where we can restore the justice,” he added, “so that those that are expressing rage and anger and demanding justice are heard.”
He offered no further details on the investigation into Floyd’s death, which has not yet returned a decision on potential charges for the four officers involved.
But Walz added he’s been in touch with the Hennepin County Attorney, and that it’s his “expectation that justice for the officers involved in this will be swift, that it will come in a timely manner, that it will be fair.”
President Trump, who called Floyd’s death “very sad and tragic” earlier this week, said early Friday that he had told Minnesota’s governor that “the Military is with him all the way.”
“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he continued, in a tweet partially hidden and flagged by Twitter for violating its policy against glorifying violence.
Trump did not miss the social network’s decision. Not long after the move, the president — who signed an executive order Thursday aimed at limiting the legal protections afforded to social media companies such as Twitter — took aim at the company with a tweet saying it “will be regulated.”
A subsequent tweet from the official White House account defending Trump’s original comments against Twitter’s “biased, bad-faith ‘fact-checkers’ ” was also flagged for glorifying violence.
In a tweet of his own, Trump’s Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, said he is “furious” that the president “is calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many.”
On Friday morning, state police arrested a CNN crew while they were reporting about the unrest on live television: “A black reporter from CNN was arrested while legally covering the protests in Minneapolis,” the network pointedly noted. “A white reporter also on the ground was not.”
The crew consisting of correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez was released about an hour later, and Walz repeatedly apologized for the incident during his news conference Friday.
“A few minutes after hearing [about the arrest] I was on a call with CNN President Jeff Zucker, who demanded to know what happened. I take full responsibility,” Walz said Friday.
“There is absolutely no reason something like this should happen. Calls were made immediately. This is a very public apology to that team. It should not happen,” he added.
The swift backtrack did little to soften the shock of the spectacle, though.
“With all the perversions of American democracy that we have witnessed, few rival the dystopian spectacle of a U.S. journalist calmly reporting the news and repeatedly offering to reposition his crew at the police’s request, only to be arrested, cuffed and hauled away alongside his crew,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, advocacy group that fights for press freedom.
She added: “For us at PEN America, where we routinely document the arrest and imprisonment of writers and journalists worldwide, the action was eerily familiar, but something we expect to see in authoritarian states: Turkey, Hong Kong, Egypt. To see it in the United States of America is appalling.”
Demonstrators in Minneapolis are not alone in their outrage over Floyd’s death. Among those to express their pain and frustration Friday was former President Obama.
“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ – whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park,” Obama said in a statement posted to social media.
In speaking of jogging and bird-watching, the former president referred to two other videos that have inspired outrage this month — one in which a black man was followed and killed by two white men while out for a run in Georgia, and another in which a white woman called police on a black bird watcher in New York City after he asked her to leash her dog.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal,’ ” Obama said. “If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020
Protesters have turned out to express their outrage as far as Los Angeles and New York City. Meanwhile in Louisville, Ky., demonstrators gathered Thursday to protest death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot by police during a no-knock raid on her home in March. Those protests turned violent, as well, with several people reported shot amid the melee.
As one protester in Minneapolis told NPR, the anger over Floyd’s death is about more than just one man — it’s about how police treat black people across the U.S.
“This is how our people react, you know? When we’ve been done wrong for so long,” he said. “So, me, I’m just praying and hoping everybody makes it home safe.”
NPR’s Adrian Florido contributed to this report.