Washington, June 1 (IANS) Some 5,000 US National Guard troops were deployed in major states amid the ongoing protests against the death of the unarmed African-American man, George Floyd in police custody on May 25 in the city of Minneapolis, while also demanding an end to racism and police violence.
The troopers would assist law enforcement officers in the states who are in charge of security in the face of riots, and “thousands more stand ready if needed”, Xinhua news agency quoted the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joseph Lengyel as saying in a tweet on Sunday.
Demonstrators in at least 30 cities across 16 states in the US have been protesting against police violence and racism since May 25, when Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old man, died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, held him down with a knee on his neck though he repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe”, and “please, I can’t breathe”.
Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
On Saturday evening, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy directed the activation of Washington D.C. National Guard in response to the US Park Police asking for assistance with the protests, Commanding General William Walker said in a statement.
As many as 25 cities have imposed curfews while at least eight states and Washington D.C. have called on the National Guard to help respond to protests as of Saturday, said a CNN report.
Nearly 1,400 people have been arrested during the protests in 17 cities since May 28. But the actual number is likely higher as protests continued over the weekend.
According to CNN, among the cities imposing night-time curfews on Sunday are Los Angeles, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Rochester, Cleveland, Portland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Charleston, Nashville, Salt Lake City and Seattle.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Sunday announced another night-time curfew from 8 pm to 6 a.m. in Minneapolis and neighbouring St. Paul, reports Efe news.
At a Sunday press conference, Walz explained his decision, saying that it would be “naive and irresponsible to abandon strategy” considering how well the curfew had worked on Friday and Saturday night, combined with the fact that the Minnesota National Guard was fully mobilized on Saturday evening.
In Washington D.C. on Saturday night, about 70 Secret Service agents and Metro Police officers were injured during the disturbances near the White House and elsewhere and where police arrested 18 people, both departments reported on Sunday.
The law enforcement and presidential protection service personnel were injured by being punched, having bricks, stones, bottles, firecrackers and other objects thrown at them.
The Secret Service said that nobody was able to penetrate into the grounds of the White House and none of the people inside the presidential residence, including the President, were ever in danger.
A number of popular landmarks of the US capital around the National Mall in central Washington D.C. were defaced with graffiti also on Sunday.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Saturday extended a curfew, which was initially applied only to downtown, to the whole city, requiring everyone within the City of Los Angeles to stay indoors from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
New York authorities on Sunday promised that “rapid” and “independent” investigations will be conducted into the violent confrontations between police and demonstrators on Saturday.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Sunday press conference that the police had done many things right, but they had also made some mistakes that will be thoroughly investigated.
Besides Minnesota and the District of Columbia, the states that have activated their National Guard troops are: Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had ordered – at her request – a National Guard contingent to maintain a limited presence in the city on Lake Michigan to support the local police so that the disturbances that occurred on Saturday night would not be repeated.
During the riots and other unrest this week, at least three people have died by gunfire in Indianapolis, Detroit and Oakland, although police evidently were not involved in those deaths.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump lashed out at the media on Sunday, saying on Twitter: “The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!”
In one of a number of tweets, Trump said “congratulations to our National Guard for the great job they did immediately upon arriving in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last night. The ANTIFA led anarchists, among others, were shut down quickly. Should have been done by Mayor on first night and there would have been no trouble!”
Trump’s mention of “antifa” refers to “anti-fascists” with a radical and anti-capitalist movement in the US, activists who seek to achieve their objectives by direct action and a group that Trump has said he intends to designate as a “terrorist organization”.