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Thousands across US defy curfews in 8th day of protests

Undeterred by curfews, thousands of protesters streamed back into the nation’s streets Tuesday hours after US resident Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death and demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”

One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing behind a black chain-link fence. The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”

The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the protest lacked the tension of the previous nights’ demonstrations.

Instead of the spray-painted tags, the protesters Tuesday favored colorful children’s street chalk, writing Black Lives Matter slogans on the asphalt in front of St. John’s Church.

Protesters chanted and talked among themselves, most wearing masks, but not social distancing in the age of COVID-19. One protester, Mati Yiheyis, a 21-year-old college student at the University of Virginia, speculated that fears of coronavirus kept many older people away.

When one protester climbed a lamp post and removed a street sign he was roundly booed by others. “It’s not what we’re about,” said protester George “T.J.” Pierce of Washington.

The crowd started thinning out on its own after 8 p.m., an hour after a curfew went into place, although a core group of several hundred remained at the fence, chanting at the line of police and soldiers in riot gear on the other side.

On Monday, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback aggressively drove protesters away from Lafayette Park, clearing the way for Trump to do a photo op at nearby St. John’s Church. On Tuesday, pastors at the church prayed with demonstrators and handed out water bottles.

In New York, Thousands of demonstrators remained on New York City streets on Tuesday after an 8 p.m. curfew put in place by officials struggling to stanch destruction and growing complaints that the nation’s biggest city was reeling out of control night after night.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had doubled down on a citywide curfew, moving it up from 11 p.m. a night earlier, but rejected urging Trump and an offer from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to bring in the National Guard.

Protests had resumed Tuesday during the day. People marched in groups of thousands in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as merchants boarded up their businesses. As the the curfew time arrived, many were still in the streets and continued marching, with officers initially standing by and allowing them.

But officers started ordering people to move along, and began taking people into custody. Demonstrators who had been on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan were herded off, with parts of the roadway blocked off behind them.

“Something has to break, and it’s not going to be us,” said Evan Kutcher, one of hundreds of demonstrators who stood outside the Barclays Center chanting Floyd’s name Tuesday evening. “We’re here because something needs to change.

Also in Los Angeles thousands took to the streets in eaceful protests Tuesday, and smaller demonstrations dotted other California cities while authorities renewed overnight curfews in LA and other areas that have seen clashes with police and groups of thieves wreck hundreds of businesses.

There were several sizable demonstrations in Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti took a knee at one while in a crowd outside police headquarters. However, later in the day, hundreds gathered outside the mayor’s house and protested.

Elsewhere in the city, police cordons backed by National Guard troops kept a tight watch on marchers in Hollywood, where hundreds were arrested a day earlier, and at a crowd of thousands at City Hall.

In San Francisco, a mass of people marched up the Great Highway along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. At San Jose’s City Hall, several hundred people showed up for a demonstration and speeches organized by the local branch of the NAACP.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott asked supervisors Tuesday to keep an overnight curfew order for at least the “next few days” to get ahead of people bent on using peaceful protests to pilfer stores and commit violence. Mayor London Breed ordered the 8 p.m. curfew Sunday following a night of thefts downtown, including at a major shopping mall where several fires were set.

Earlier, Trump amplified his hard-line calls of a day earlier, in which he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

Protests ranged across the US, including in Miami, Houston, St. Paul, Minnesota, Columbia, South Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, where more than 1,000 people gathered in the afternoon to decry the killings of black people.

“This has to change,” said 39-year-old Aisxia Batiste, an out-of-work massage therapist in Orlando. “Something has to give. We’re done. This is the beginning of the end of something. It has to be.”

In New York, midtown Manhattan was pocked with battered storefronts after Monday’s protests. Macy’s flagship store was among those hit when crowds of people smashed windows and looted stores as they swept through the area. A police sergeant was hospitalized after being hit by a car in the Bronx, where people walked Tuesday between ransacked buildings and a burned-out car on the Grand Concourse, a commercial thoroughfare.

Police made nearly 700 arrests and Mayor Bill de Blasio extended an 8 p.m. curfew all week.

“We’re going to have a tough few days,” he warned, but added: “We’re going to beat it back.” He pleaded with community leaders to step forward and “create peace.”

More than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence. New York is not among them, and De Blasio has said he does not want the Guard. On Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called what happened in the city “a disgrace.”

“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany.

He said the mayor underestimated the problem, and the nation’s largest police force was not deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.

Tuesday marked the eight straight night of the protests, which began in Minneapolis, where Floyd died, and quickly spread across the country.

The mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, said she wanted the world to know that her little girl lost a good father.

“I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took,” Roxie Washington said during a Minneapolis news conference with her young daughter at her side. “I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good.”

Meanwhile, governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats alike, rejected Trump’s threat to send in the military, with some saying troops would be unnecessary and others questioning whether the government has such authority and warning that such a step would be dangerous.

“Denver is not Little Rock in 1957, and Donald Trump is not President Eisenhower. This is a time for healing, for bringing people together, and the best way to protect civil rights is to move away from escalating violence,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, both Democrats, said in a statement, referring to Eisenhower’s use of troops to enforce school desegregation in the South.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the president is not rushing to send in the military and that his goal was to pressure governors to deploy more National Guard members.

Such use of the military would mark a stunning federal intervention rarely seen in modern American history.

Minnesota, meanwhile, opened an investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a pattern of discrimination against minorities. Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes.

Chauvin has been charged with murder. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said prosecutors are working as fast as they can to determine if the three other officers at the scene should be charged too. All four have been fired.

Header: NYPD officers take position to control demonstrators as they protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, May 31, 2020. © Reuters / Eduardo Munoz

Original: AP via TOI