At least 4,400 people have been arrested nationwide as peaceful protests expressing grief and anger over the police custody death of George Floyd have in many cases been marred by looting, violence, and arson.
According to a count compiled by The Associated Press, the several thousand arrests have been for such offenses as blocking highways, theft, and assault.
While thousands marched peacefully in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Phoenix with some calling for an end to riots and looting, elsewhere there was widespread violence against property and people.
Fires burned near the White House, stores were looted in Southern California, and disturbing footage of violent acts flooded social media, including of a mob beating an elderly female shop owner in Rochester, New York.
Another disturbing incident caught on camera took place in Dallas, Texas, where a man reported to be store owner defending his shop with a sword was set upon by a mob and beaten unconscious.
The unrest began with peaceful protests over the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man, who communicated trouble breathing as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, restrained him with a knee to the neck and head area for nearly 9 minutes.
Chauvin, fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, though that did little to stem the fury.
President Donald Trump, in a speech May 30 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral, said he spoke to Floyd’s family to express sorrow for his death. He added that the officers involved in the incident have been fired, one of them had been charged with murder, and that charges could be brought against the other three.
“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace,” he said. “And I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack, and menace.”
“Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos are the mission at hand,” Trump said.
“I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protesters, and we hear their pleas,” Trump said, calling on law enforcement to get tough on those responsible for acts of violence and vandalism, adding, “the memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters, and anarchists.”
Struggling to cope with the civil unrest, local law enforcement was reinforced by around 5,000 members of the National Guard, which deployed to 15 states and Washington, according to Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
“The hardest mission we do is responding in times of civil unrest,” Lengyel said in a statement.
The Minnesota National Guard said in a tweet it had deployed over 4,100 personnel to the area and expected this would increase at least twofold.
“This is a significant increase over the 700 on duty Friday. We live here. We work here. We serve here. We’re all in,” the statement said.
We now have more than 4,100 — quickly moving toward 10,800 — Minnesota Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen supporting our friends and neighbors in the Twin Cities. This is a significant increase over the 700 on-duty Friday. We live here. We work here. We serve here. We’re all in. pic.twitter.com/WorKOI9ZCa
— MN National Guard (@MNNationalGuard) May 31, 2020
Elsewhere in the country, a protest along the historic Route 66 into downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, turned violent early Monday after police reported demonstrators setting small fires and officers said they were fired upon.
A Sunday afternoon of mostly peaceful protests in Boston broke at nightfall when protesters clashed with officers, throwing rocks, breaking into several stores, and lighting a police vehicle on fire.
Boston police tweeted that at least 40 people had been arrested as of 3 a.m. Monday. Police said seven police officers had been hospitalized and 21 police cruisers were damaged.
“The main victims of this horrible, horrible situation are the citizens who live in these once lovely communities. The mobs are devastating the life’s work of good people and destroying their dreams,” the president said in a speech after the launch.
“Right now, America needs creation, not destruction; cooperation, not contempt; security, not anarchy,” the president said.
“And there will be no anarchy. Civilization must be cherished, defended, and protected,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.