Washington: The US remained a tinderbox of anger and emotion as violent protests erupted for a sixth day across the country over the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd, resulting in the death of at least five people, the arrest of thousands and placing of curfew in nearly 40 cities, while forcing President Donald Trump to take shelter in a White House bunker.
Considered to be the worst ever civil unrest in the US in decades, the violent protests have engulfed at least 140 cities across America in the days following the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old man who was pinned to the ground in Minneapolis on Monday by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.
Some of the protests have turned violent, prompting the activation of the National Guard in at least 20 states.
“At least five people were killed in violence that flared as demonstrations in parts of the country devolved into mayhem,” The Washington Post reported.
Police have arrested at least 2,564 people in two dozen US cities over the weekend. Nearly a fifth of those arrests were in Los Angeles, it said.
The unrest initially began in Minneapolis in Minnesota but has now spread across the country, with reports of violence coming in from across major cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
“The United States remained a tinderbox of emotion, anger and continued violence on Sunday, the sixth day of nationwide unrest since the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police,” The New York Times reported.
In Birmingham, protesters started to tear down a Confederate monument that the city had previously covered with a tarp amid a lawsuit between the state attorney general and the city.
In Boston, a police SUV was set ablaze near the State House, sending up a column of black smoke after a large group of protesters had mostly dispersed.
In Philadelphia, police officers in riot gear and an armoured vehicle used pepper spray to try to repel rioters and looters.
In New York, demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, snarling traffic. The Manhattan Bridge was briefly shut down to car traffic. Chaos erupted in Union Square, with flames leaping up two stories from trash cans and piles of street debris, the Times said.
“It is the first time so many local leaders have simultaneously issued such orders in the face of civic unrest since 1968, after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” the report said.
The police fired tear gas near the White House on Sunday night to dissuade protesters who had smashed the windows of prominent buildings, overturned cars and set fires, with smoke seen rising from near the Washington Monument, it said.
For the past few days, thousands of protestors have gathered outside the White House raising slogans against President Trump.
According to CNN, President Trump was briefly taken to the underground bunker for some time during the protest outside the White House, while First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron were also taken to the bunker.
President Trump made no public appearances on Sunday, but in a series of tweets he blamed the media for fomenting hatred and anarchy in the country.
“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!” he said.
Earlier in the day, he announced that his administration will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization. ANTIFA is regarded as a militant, left-wing, anti-fascist political activist movement in the US. It comprises autonomous activist groups that aim to achieve their political objectives through the use of direct action rather than through policy reform.
US Attorney General William Barr said that the violence instigated and carried out by the organisation and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.
The Trump administration alleges that it appears the violence is planned, organised, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using ANTIFA-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic party, visited a protest site in Delaware on Sunday.
“We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us,” Biden wrote on social media postings on Sunday.
“The only way to bear this pain is to turn all that anguish to purpose. And as President, I will help lead this conversation and more importantly, I will listen, just as I did today visiting the site of last night’s protests in Wilmington,” he said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, in a late night statement said that several dozen covering the protests have been harassment, as well as arrested by law enforcement agencies.