DETROIT – While many peaceful protests across the country devolved into rioting on Saturday night, there was an undeniable increase in police incidents with demonstrators.
Riots broke out in many major cities late Saturday night, with widespread looting and vandalism reported across the country in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
Floyd died Monday in Minneapolis after a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. The officer, Derrick Chauvin, was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder. Floyd was black. Chauvin is white.
Few corners of America were untouched, from protesters setting fires inside Reno’s city hall, to police launching tear gas at rock-throwing demonstrators in Fargo, North Dakota, to shattered windows at police headquarters in Richmond, Virginia.
Noticeably different from protests on Friday night was the increased militarized police presence. Officers wearing riot gear guarding buildings and pushed through crowds with tear gas and other non-lethal tactics. The National Guard was called into at least 13 cities.
Many cities installed curfews, trying to curb crowds after-dark. Those who stayed past curfew were threatened with arrest and, at times, force. In multiple videos circulating social media, police are seen pushing, shoving, macing and even driving into crowds of protesters.
In New York, NYPD officers are captured accelerating two vehicles into crowds of protesters behind barricades. Several people were knocked to the ground.
So NYPD are just running down protestors now?! pic.twitter.com/Y91KAjPG4x— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 31, 2020
In Minneapolis, officers are seen opening fire on a woman who was looking outside from her own house.
Share widely: National guard and MPD sweeping our residential street. Shooting paint canisters at us on our own front porch. Yelling “light em up” #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #JusticeForGeorge #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/bW48imyt55— Tanya Kerssen (@tkerssen) May 31, 2020
In Salt Lake City, officers were seen pushing over a man using a cane:
Salt Lake City cops shove down an elderly man with a cane for the crime of standing along the street: pic.twitter.com/PCLkHqQtJg— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) May 31, 2020
I mean. They couldn’t stop themselves from blatantly escalating things. Even for a few days, even cynically, even for the optics. pic.twitter.com/YVDjnvVGnY— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) May 31, 2020
New York: #BlackLivesMatter protesters demonstrate peacefully with their hands up.— Chad Loder (@chadloder) May 31, 2020
An NYPD cop pulls a man’s facemask down and pepper sprays him directly in the face for no reason. pic.twitter.com/jrsNEQNdS9
Police were also documented attacking members of the media, even as reporters clearly identified themselves to authorities while covering the unrest.
Michael Anthony Adams, a Detroit native and Vice reporter, posted video of an officer pepper spraying him in Washington D.C. after clearly identifying as a member of the press:
Police just raided the gas station we were sheltering at. After shouting press multiple times and raising my press card in the air, I was thrown to the ground. Then another cop came up and peppered sprayed me in the face while I was being held down. pic.twitter.com/23EkZIMAFC— Michael Anthony Adams (@MichaelAdams317) May 31, 2020
In Detroit, Detroit Free Press reporter Branden Hunter said police approached him several times despite identifying as press.
Was just approached by a cop firing rubber bullets and told to leave. He thought I was a part of the crowd. @freep team was right there to vouch for me and I showed my press credential. They then fired some tear gas at us and we had to run.— Branden Hunter (@JustCallmeBHunt) May 31, 2020
There were some brighter spots of police involvement in protests. In Genesee County, Sheriff Chris Swanson joined protesters in a march.
In Juneau, Alaska, local police joined protesters at a rally in front of a giant whale sculpture on the city’s waterfront.
Police have arrested nearly 1,700 people in 22 cities since Thursday, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Nearly a third of those arrests came in Los Angeles, where the governor declared a state of emergency and ordered the National Guard to back up the city’s 10,000 police officers as dozens of fires burned across the city.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the violence as he continued to express common cause with those demonstrating after Floyd’s death.
“The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest,” Biden said in a statement Saturday night.