WASHINGTON | Anger against racism and police brutality continued on Tuesday in the United States, despite looting, clashes with the police and the martial tone of Donald Trump, determined to restore order by resorting if necessary to l ‘army.
Nine days after the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man asphyxiated by a white police officer, the wave of historical protest knows no respite.
Protesters faced police especially in New York or Los Angeles until late at night despite curfews, with less looting and violence reported than the previous nights.
During the day, at least 60,000 people paid peaceful tribute to the deceased in Houston, the Texas city where he grew up and where he is to be buried next week. “We want them to know that George did not die in vain,” said mayor Sylvester Turner.
In New York, where several department stores on Fifth Avenue were looted Monday night, the night curfew was brought forward at 8 p.m. and extended until Sunday. Hundreds of demonstrators, black and white, nevertheless protested peacefully, chanting “George Floyd, George Floyd” or “Black Lives Matter!” (“The life of blacks counts”), rallying cry against police violence targeting African-Americans. Tazhiana Gordon, a 29-year-old black nurse, said the curfew “is a tool to prevent people from demonstrating rather than arresting people who commit crimes.”
The day was “much quieter,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN, welcoming a “strong” police presence.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti posed with the police a knee on the ground, a symbol since 2016 of the denunciation of police violence against the African-American minority. Protesters gathered in the evening outside his home and some 200 people were arrested after refusing to disperse, the AFP said.
In Washington, several thousand people, including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, protested until late in the evening, defying the city’s curfew starting at 7 p.m. The surrounding area of the White House has been blocked by metal barriers, preventing any direct confrontation with the police.
Shortly after midnight, the televisions showed the police firing tear gas, but the situation seemed generally calm. In front of the White House, an 18-year-old protester, Jada Wallace, confided: “I am basically tired of being afraid of the police and of not obtaining justice”.
Washington, where more than 300 protesters were arrested Monday night, “was the safest place on the planet last night,” tweeted Donald Trump, assuming the presidency of “law and order.”
Calm reigned in Minneapolis (Minnesota). “I want him to be done justice because he was good, no matter what people think, he was someone good,” said Roxie Washington, mother of George Floyd’s daughter, crying.
Minnesota announced one of the first concrete initiatives in response to demands from protesters, with the launch of an investigation into the Minneapolis police. The investigation will examine possible “systemic discriminatory practices” over the past ten years, Governor Tim Walz tweeted.
In the past week, unrest has spread to more than a hundred American cities, with thousands of arrests and several deaths. Donald Trump paid tribute Tuesday night to a former police officer killed on a looting scene in St. Louis, Missouri.
“Dominate the streets”
On Monday evening, the president announced the deployment of “thousands of heavily armed soldiers” and police to Washington to end “the riots” and “the looting”.
Just before his speech, law enforcement dispersed many protesters near the White House with tear gas and then allowed him to walk to an iconic church that had deteriorated the previous day. A gesture denounced by Protestant and Catholic leaders as a “morally repugnant” communication coup.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser protested the sending of the military “onto the American streets against the Americans,” like many Democratic governors.
The crisis is taking an increasingly political turn. Joe Biden, Democratic presidential candidate on November 3, accused Donald Trump on Tuesday of “turning this country into a battlefield plagued by old grudges and new fears”.
He promised to “heal the racial wounds that have been plaguing our country for so long.”
Faced with protests, in a country where the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequalities, Donald Trump has remained silent so far on the responses to the evils denounced by the demonstrators and has only briefly mentioned the “revolt” in the face of the conditions of George Floyd’s death.
This 46-year-old man died on May 25 while repeating “I can’t breathe”, lying on the floor, handcuffed and with his neck under the knee of a police officer whose colleagues remained passive. Autopsies confirmed that the death was due to pressure on his neck.