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30 May

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How the killing of George Floyd has upended America – video report

Thousands of people ignored a curfew in Minneapolis to protest for a fourth night in a row, as anger around police brutality and the death of George Floyd erupted into violence across the US, from New York to California.

Although multiple demonstrations started peacefully many turned volatile overnight, with crowds in Minneapolis overwhelming law enforcement, taking over a police station and smashing and burning shops. In Atlanta, people set a police car ablaze and broke windows at CNN’s headquarters, an attack that prompted Georgia’s governor to declare a state of emergency.

An unidentified assailant in Detroit fired shots from an SUV into a crowd of demonstrators, killing a 19-year-old man.

The shooting came hours after Donald Trump was criticised for inciting violence against protesters when he threatened people he called “thugs” on Twitter: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer captured on video kneeling on Floyd for nine minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. But three other officers involved in the arrest had not yet been charged, and the announcement did little to end what has descended into regular nightly clashes.

In the capital, the White House was put under lockdown as demonstrators tussled with the Secret Service into the early hours. Protesters threw bricks and bottles but failed to get over the barricades. Police dispersed the crowds with pepper spray.

On Saturday morning, in a series of intimidating tweets, the president lauded the Secret Service, saying they “would quickly come down on [the protesters], hard – didn’t know what hit them”.

“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” Trump said. “That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”

Secret Service agents, he warned, were “just waiting for action”. He also appeared to call for a counter-demonstration by his supporters on Saturday night.

In Oakland, San Jose and Los Angeles, protesters blocked highways and police fired teargas. In Louisville, Kentucky, police fired projectiles at a reporter and her cameraman during a live shot. Authorities later apologised.

The mayor of Portland, in Oregon, imposed a curfew on Saturday morning and declared a state of emergency after what he described as a “riot” overnight. Ted Wheeler said citizens must stay home between 8pm and 6am, starting immediately. “This isn’t calling for meaningful change in our communities, this is disgusting,” he tweeted.

Amid reports that the Pentagon ordered the army to put military police units on alert to head to Minneapolis, the focus of the current wave of protests, the Minnesota governor said authorities had been overwhelmed.

Many protesting in Minneapolis have done so without violence, chanting and holding signs denouncing the police. But other groups broke away overnight to burn down a bank and attack other buildings.

Governor Tim Walz had earlier pledged to restore calm after Thursday when officers abandoned the area around the third police precinct to thousands of angry demonstrators who set fire to the building. But on Friday, thousands gathered there again and retook control of the gutted police station, despite waves of teargas.

“Quite candidly, right now, we do not have the numbers,” Walz told a late-night news conference. “We cannot arrest people when we’re trying to hold ground because of the sheer size, the dynamics and the wanton violence that’s coming out there.”

In a different part of the city, officers had been deployed to defend another police station. “We will not have another repeat of what happened at the third precinct,” said the city police chief, Medaria Arradondo.

On Saturday morning, Walz announced the largest national guard deployment in state history, saying the violence was “no longer, in any way, about the murder of George Floyd” and suggesting “domestic terrorists” were involved.

Protests have raged in the wake of Floyd’s death, with people calling for an end to police violence and justice for black Americans. They include Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in March by police officers in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a retired law enforcement officer and his son in Georgia while out jogging.

With more gatherings expected this weekend, officials have called for calm, and law enforcement teams are deploying teargas, rubber bullets and drone surveillance.

Local business owners have expressed fears for their livelihoods amid the growing unrest. On Friday night, Sergio Pineda stood guard over his used car lot as a petrol station burned a block away, and crowds looted a liquor store and partied in the street.

“It’s all Latino businesses around here. I don’t support what the cops did, but I don’t support what’s going on,” he said. “The national guard should be here protecting,” he said. “A lot of these are minority-owned businesses that aren’t insured.”

A demonstration in Atlanta that started without incident quickly changed tone on Friday evening. Protesters used barricades to break police vehicle windshields and jumped from car to car. Hundreds of the protesters confronted police outside CNN headquarters.

Erika Shields, Atlanta’s police chief, however, said protesters were “understandably upset” and that the country faces a “recurring narrative” of black men being killed. “Black men are routinely killed, and whether it’s by police or other individuals, the reality of it is, we’ve diminished the value on their life,” she said.

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