Five US police officers were reportedly shot during clashes in several cities as protesters and looters defied curfews in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in police custody last week.
Four police officers were shot in St Louis, Missouri, as authorities struggled to regain control of the city’s streets late into Monday evening. The officers, who are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries in hospital, were hit by gunfire as they stood next to a police line during violent disorder, said the chief of police, John Hayden.
People had been throwing rocks and fireworks, and had tried to throw petrol at officers, he added. “As we speak we are trying to get control of the city,” Mr Hayden said.
In Nevada, a police officer was shot near the Las Vegas Strip, Associated Press reported. There were no details on the officer’s condition. Authorities were also responding to a second, separate shooting in the area, the agency said.
Two people were killed in Cicero, a Chicago suburb, according to Associated Press. Ray Hanania, a municipal official, told the news agency that 60 people in the town had been arrested, but did not give further details on the deaths.
After the Covid-19 emergency and its devastating economic fallout, the protests — the most widespread since the civil rights era — have created another crisis for Donald Trump five months before the presidential election. Since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last week, the president has been criticised for appearing to incite violence against demonstrators. On Monday, Mr Trump responded by threatening to deploy the US military.
New York ordered residents home by 11pm on Monday, the first time a curfew had been imposed on New Yorkers in 70 years. But about 1,000 protesters remained on the streets past the deadline, with looting taking place in the city’s glitzy midtown district.
“Protesters were overwhelmingly peaceful today and cops respected their right to speak out,” wrote New York City mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter. “But some people tonight had nothing to do with the cause and stole and damaged instead. That we won’t allow.”
Elsewhere in the state, two police officers in Buffalo were injured after a car was driven through a police line. Mark Poloncarz, Erie County’s executive, wrote on Twitter that the two officers were “allegedly in stable condition” after the incident.
In Washington, a peaceful protest outside the White House was dispersed by police firing tear gas and rubber bullets as Mr Trump addressed the nation.
In Louisville, Kentucky, tear gas was used to disperse several hundred people in the city’s downtown area. A march had been held in the city to demonstrate against the death of barbecue restaurant owner David McAtee, who was shot and killed by police on Monday morning.
The city’s police chief was fired after it emerged that body cameras worn by the officers involved in the incident had been switched off.
In Los Angeles, police moved in to arrest looters as an 8pm curfew passed. A peaceful protest had earlier taken place along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.
Michel Moore, the city’s police chief, was forced to retract a comment suggesting that looters had Floyd’s death “on their hands” as much as the white officers accused of killing the unarmed victim last week.
After being prompted for clarification by Eric Garcetti, the city’s mayor, Mr Moore said Floyd’s death was being exploited as a “catalyst for violence”.
The family of Floyd released the results of a private autopsy, which concluded that he died from asphyxia. The findings contradicted the preliminary county report that found no evidence of “traumatic asphyxia or strangulation”.
Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes, is awaiting arraignment on charges of third-degree murder.
Mr Trump blamed the violence on the “radical left” and urged governors to take more aggressive action. “You have every one of these guys on tape. Why aren’t you prosecuting them?” he said, according to a recording of his call with governors on Monday. “The tougher you are, the less likely you’re going to be hit.”
Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed across more than half the states in the US.
Barack Obama, the former president, said the protests were a “genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system” in the US. He said the vast majority of the demonstrators were peaceful, and criticised the “small minority of folks” who resorted to violence.
“If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves,” Mr Obama wrote in a blog post.
The US is struggling to control the coronavirus crisis, which has forced 40m Americans out of work and claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people.
Additional reporting by Philip Georgiadis in London