Mass protests erupted across the nation for a second night on Friday, with thousands taking to the streets to protest police brutality in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Floyd, 46, died on Monday, after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground in a neck chokehold until he died. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder.
In Louisville, Kentucky, demonstrators gathered to protest the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was fatally shot in her home by police officers on March 13.
For days, heated protests have taken place in Minneapolis, but they have since expanded nationwide — even amid a lethal pandemic. The protests reflect the nation’s outrage that, at the very least, even years after the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, after social media gave rise to widely-recorded police brutality, after repeated calls to reform how law enforcement treat people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, unarmed and innocent black people are still being killed by the people who are supposed to protect society.
“I’m tired,” Salamah Patrick, 27, told BuzzFeed at a protest in Brooklyn. “I’m tired of cops killing us and nothing being done.”
“Mass shootings have gone down” during the pandemic,” she said, “but police brutality hasn’t.”
By early in the evening the most heated protests were in New York City. Thousands of people began in Manhattan, then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to join a Black Lives Matter protest outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Take your anger out on those who hold the power, wherever it may reside,” New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said at a press conference earlier in the day as he called for peaceful demonstrations. Later in the evening, after hundreds of NYPD officers were deployed and they repeatedly clashed with protesters, he went to Brooklyn to speak to the police commissioner.
As the night wore, police started arresting protesters who did not disperse or follow orders, using city buses to hold them — even as some drivers refused to transport them.
Outside the Barclays Center arena, protesters chanted, “Say his name, George Floyd” and “I can’t breathe.”
Protesters took aim at the 88th Precinct in Brooklyn, as the NYPD sent reinforcements. A few blocks away, a police van was set ablaze.
In Minneapolis, protesters defied the attempted curfew and police, at least early on, took a hands-off approach. Many walked through downtown and on expressways.
Gov. Tim Walz had set an 8 p.m. curfew earlier in the day, saying “unlawful and dangerous actions of others, under the cover of darkness, has caused irreversible pain and damage to our community.”
But roughly two hours past the curfew, police officers and the National Guard had yet to move in as protesters marched on the streets and freeway ramps.
In Louisville, hundreds had gathered outside City Hall demanding justice for Taylor’s death in what was initially a peaceful demonstration. But as the night wore on, there were clashes with police trying to disperse the crowds. Police in riot gear reportedly set off gas and fired pepper balls, prompting demonstrators to flee.
At one point, police appeared to fire projectiles at a reporter for local news station Wave 3, Kaitlin Rust. The confrontation unfolded during a live news segment, with Rust yelling “I’m getting shot, I’m getting…” A few moments later she the tells the news anchors they appeared to be pepper bullets aimed “directly at us.”
A Louisville Metro Police spokesperson told the station officers do not use rubber bullets, and that they were likely pepper balls.
Another confrontation between police and journalists occurred earlier Friday when a black CNN reporter and two members of his team were arrested live on air in Minneapolis. Walz later apologized to CNN president Jeff Zucker, saying he “accepts full responsibility” and later had the team released.
In Atlanta, protesters focused on the CNN building, breaking glass as they hurled items from the street. Police also threatened to arrest protesters if they didn’t leave the street as they threw bottles and other items at officers.
The violence and vandalism prompted a strong rebuke from the city’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who told protesters were “disgracing our city.”
“You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country,” she said. “We are better than this. We are better than this as a city.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced late Friday night that at the request of Bottoms, he was issuing a state of emergency for Fulton County to activate as many as 500 National Guard troops to assist local law enforcement.
Clashes with police also erupted in Oakland, California, after protesters were told to disperse. Flash bangs and tear gas were eventually deployed, prompting demonstrators to flee.
Vandalism also broke out, with some protesters smashing out windows of businesses. A Walgreens was also briefly set ablaze as looters pillaged the store.
Earlier in the evening when protesters were peacefully marching through city streets, Raje Lee told BuzzFeed News she had just heard that Floyd and the ex-officer who put him in a knee chokehold had previously worked together providing security at a local bar for years.
“Saying it was accidental is total bullshit,” she said. “You sat there with your knee on someone’s trachea and you didn’t think they’re gonna die?”
Later in the evening, flash bangs were set off, prompting some demonstrators to leave the area.
In Houston, violence broke out between pockets of protesters who got into heated arguments.
Violence also broke out in San Jose, California, as demonstrators blocked Highway 101, with one protester bashing a driver’s window while crossing.
And in Los Angeles, dozens of protesters were arrested after police ordered the downtown area locked down and they refused dispersal orders.
One LAPD officer was reportedly hurt during clashes with protesters, who smashed windows and vandalized several police vehicles. At one point, demonstrators temporarily blocked traffic on a portion of the 110 Freeway.
As in other cities where large demonstrations took place, businesses were also looted and vandalized.
Police eventually surrounded protesters who remained late Friday for mass arrests in front of City Hall.
Amber Jamieson reported from New York City, and Caroline O’Donovan reported from Oakland.