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Min Police Station Torched Amid Protest05/29 06:18

   

   MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Cheering protesters torched a Minneapolis police station 
that the department abandoned as three days of violent protests spread to 
nearby St. Paul and angry demonstrations flared across the U.S over the death 
of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police 
officer kneeled on his neck.

   A police spokesman confirmed late Thursday that staff had evacuated the 3rd 
Precinct station, the focus of many of the protests, "in the interest of the 
safety of our personnel" shortly after 10 p.m. Livestream video showed the 
protesters entering the building, where fire alarms blared and sprinklers ran 
as blazes were set.

   Protesters could be seen setting fire to a Minneapolis Police Department 
jacket.

   Late Thursday, President Donald Trump blasted the "total lack of leadership" 
in Minneapolis. "Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him 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 said on Twitter. Trump, who called 
protesters in Minneapolis "thugs," drew another warning from Twitter for his 
rhetoric, saying it violated the platform's rules about "glorifying violence."

   A visibly tired and frustrated Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made his first 
public appearance of the night at City Hall near 2 a.m. Friday and took 
responsibility for evacuating the precinct, saying it had become too dangerous 
for officers there. As Frey continued, a reporter cut across loudly with a 
question: "What's the plan here?"

   "With regard to?" Frey responded. Then he added: "There is a lot of pain and 
anger right now in our city. I understand that ... What we have seen over the 
past several hours and past couple of nights here in terms of looting is 
unacceptable."

   He defended the city's lack of engagement with looters  only a handful of 
arrests across the first two nights of violence  and said, "We are doing 
absolutely everything that we can to keep the peace." He said National Guard 
members were being stationed in locations to help stem looting, including 
banks, grocery stores and pharmacies.

   On Friday morning, the Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN television crew 
as they reported on the unrest in Minneapolis. While live on air, CNN reporter 
Omar Jimenez was handcuffed and led away. A producer and a photojournalist for 
CNN were also led away in handcuffs.

   Fires burned Friday morning in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

   Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd's death in a confrontation 
with police captured on widely seen citizen video. On the video, Floyd can be 
seen pleading as Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes 
pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving. The 3rd Precinct covers the 
portion of south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested.

   Walz earlier Thursday activated the National Guard at the Minneapolis 
mayor's request. The Guard tweeted minutes after the precinct burned that it 
had activated more than 500 soldiers across the metro area. A couple dozen 
Guard members, armed with assault-style rifles, blocked a street Friday morning 
near a Target store that has sustained heavy damage by looters.

   The Guard said a "key objective" was to make sure fire departments could 
respond to calls, and said in a follow-up tweet it was "here with the 
Minneapolis Fire Department" to assist. But no move was made to put out the 3rd 
Precinct fire. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said fire crews could not 
safely respond to fires at the precinct station and some surrounding buildings.

   Earlier Thursday, dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities boarded up 
their windows and doors in an effort to prevent looting, with Minneapolis-based 
Target announcing it was temporarily closing two dozen area stores. Minneapolis 
shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through 
Sunday out of safety concerns.

   In St. Paul, clouds of smoke hung in the air as police armed with batons and 
wearing gas masks and body armor kept a watchful eye on protesters along one of 
the city's main commercial corridors, where firefighters also sprayed water 
onto a series of small fires. At one point, officers stood in line in front of 
a Target, trying to keep out looters, who were also smashing windows of other 
businesses.

   Hundreds of demonstrators returned Thursday to the Minneapolis neighborhood 
at the center of the violence, where the nighttime scene veered between an 
angry protest and a street party. At one point, a band playing in a parking lot 
across from the 3rd Precinct broke into a punk version of Bob Marley's 
"Redemption Song." Nearby, demonstrators carried clothing mannequins from a 
looted Target and threw them onto a burning car. Later, a building fire erupted 
nearby.

   But elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched 
through the streets calling for justice.

   Floyd's death has deeply shaken Minneapolis and sparked protests in cities 
across the U.S. Local leaders have repeatedly urged demonstrators to avoid 
violence.

   "Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest. Please keep the focus 
on George Floyd, on advancing our movement and on preventing this from ever 
happening again," tweeted St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who is black.

   Erika Atson, 20, was among thousands of people who gathered outside 
government offices in downtown Minneapolis, where organizers had called for a 
peaceful protest. Many protesters wore masks because of the coronavirus 
pandemic, but there were few attempts at social distancing.

   Atson, who is black, described seeing her 14- and 11-year-old brothers 
tackled by Minneapolis police years ago because officers mistakenly presumed 
the boys had guns. She said she had been at "every single protest" since 
Floyd's death and worried about raising children who could be vulnerable in 
police encounters.

   "We don't want to be here fighting against anyone. We don't want anyone to 
be hurt. We don't want to cause any damages," she said. "We just want the 
police officer to be held accountable."

   The group marched peacefully for three hours before another confrontation 
with police broke out, though details were scarce.

   After calling in the Guard, Walz urged widespread changes in the wake of 
Floyd's death.

   "It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system and 
rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they're charged to 
protect," Walz said.

   Much of the Minneapolis violence occurred in the Longfellow neighborhood, 
where protesters converged on the precinct station of the police who arrested 
Floyd. In a strip mall across the street from the 3rd Precinct station, the 
windows in nearly every business had been smashed, from the large Target 
department store at one end to the Planet Fitness gym at the other. Only the 
24-hour laundromat appeared to have escaped unscathed.

   "WHY US?" demanded a large expanse of red graffiti scrawled on the wall of 
the Target. A Wendy's restaurant across the street was charred almost beyond 
recognition.

   Among the casualties of the overnight fires: a six-story building under 
construction that was to provide nearly 200 apartments of affordable housing.

   "We're burning our own neighborhood," said a distraught Deona Brown, a 
24-year-old woman standing with a friend outside the precinct station, where a 
small group of protesters were shouting at a dozen or so stone-faced police 
officers in riot gear. "This is where we live, where we shop, and they 
destroyed it." No officers could be seen beyond the station.

   "What that cop did was wrong, but I'm scared now," Brown said.

   Others in the crowd saw something different in the wreckage.

   Protesters destroyed property "because the system is broken," said a young 
man who identified himself only by his nickname, Cash, and who said he had been 
in the streets during the violence. He dismissed the idea that the destruction 
would hurt residents of the largely black neighborhood.

   "They're making money off of us," he said angrily of the owners of the 
destroyed stores. He laughed when asked if he had joined in the looting or 
violence. "I didn't break anything."

   The protests that began Wednesday night and extended into Thursday were more 
violent than Tuesday's, which included skirmishes between officers and 
protesters but no widespread property damage.

   Protests have also spread to other U.S. cities. In New York City, protesters 
defied New York's coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings Thursday, 
clashing with police, while demonstrators blocked traffic in downtown Denver 
and downtown Columbus. A day earlier, demonstrators had taken to the streets in 
Los Angeles and Memphis.

   In Louisville, Kentucky, police confirmed that at least seven people had 
been shot Thursday night as protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a 
black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in March.

   Amid the violence in Minneapolis, a man was found fatally shot Wednesday 
night near a pawn shop, possibly by the owner, authorities said.

   Fire crews responded to about 30 intentionally set blazes on Wednesday, and 
multiple fire trucks were damaged by rocks and other projectiles, the fire 
department said. No one was hurt by the blazes.

   The city on Thursday released a transcript of the 911 call that brought 
police to the grocery store where Floyd was arrested. The caller described 
someone paying with a counterfeit bill, with workers rushing outside to find 
the man sitting on a van. The caller described the man as "awfully drunk and 
he's not in control of himself." Asked by the 911 operator whether the man was 
"under the influence of something," the caller said: "Something like that, yes. 
He is not acting right." Police said Floyd matched the caller's description of 
the suspect.

   The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said Thursday they 
were conducting "a robust criminal investigation" into the death. Trump has 
said he had asked an investigation to be expedited.

   The FBI is also investigating whether Floyd's civil rights were violated.

   Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck, was fired Tuesday with 
three other officers involved in the arrest. The next day, the mayor called for 
Chauvin to be criminally charged. He also appealed for the activation of the 
National Guard.

 
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