Protesters overrun a Minneapolis police building and set it aflame.
Protesters broke windows and charged over fences to breach a police precinct station in Minneapolis and set it on fire late Thursday as officers retreated from violent confrontations that boiled over days after George Floyd died in police custody.
A demonstration near the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct grew more intense in the hours after prosecutors said they had not decided whether to charge an officer who had pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes.
Some people tossed fireworks and other items toward officers, while the police fired projectiles back. The protests extended to many other cities, including New York, Denver, Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, where scores of protesters tried to enter the statehouse.
In Minneapolis, police officers retreated from the Third Precinct in vehicles just after 10 p.m. local time as protesters broke into the building, where they smashed equipment, lit fires and set off fireworks, according to videos posted from the scene.
“We’re starting fires in here so be careful,” one man shouted as sprinklers doused protesters who had burst inside. Flames began to rise from the front of the building as hundreds of protesters looked on, and soon smoke was billowing from the roof.
The city of Minneapolis warned protesters to stay away from the precinct, saying on Twitter that there had been unconfirmed reports of cut gas lines and explosives in the building.
John Elder, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department, had confirmed earlier that all staff members had fled the building.
Footage from helicopter cameras showed nearby local businesses engulfed in flames. But firefighters from the Minneapolis Fire Department could not respond to the area because of safety concerns, Assistant Chief Bryan Tyner said in an email.
As the unrest escalated, 500 members of the Minnesota National Guard were sent to Minneapolis and St. Paul, the capital. Gov. Tim Walz had activated the soldiers and declared a state of emergency in the Twin Cities in the afternoon after he saw the level of destruction from Wednesday’s protest — buildings on fire, clashes with the police and looted stores.
“Unfortunately, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity, including arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property,” Mr. Walz wrote in his proclamation. “These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators and other Minnesotans, and both first responders and demonstrators have already been injured.”
Rory Purnell said that he raced to his barbershop on 42nd Avenue North on Thursday to put a sign in the window letting protesters know it was an African-American-owned business, but he arrived too late. One of his windows was smashed, and he said crowds had also broken the windows of a neighboring liquor store and cellphone retailer.
“We’re seeing people getting out of cars with bats and stuff,” Mr. Purnell said. “I just begged them, leave the barbershop alone.”
The smashed window, now boarded up, looks like a black eye on the front of his barbershop. But Mr. Purnell, who seethed with anger as he watched the video of Mr. Floyd’s death, said he was planning to reopen on Monday.
There were also protests in the bordering city of St. Paul, where officers in riot gear skirmished with protesters as several businesses were vandalized, according to photographs posted online. Lawmakers and employees at the State Capitol were told to evacuate the building as a precaution after looting continued at nearby stores.
There were dozens of fires and more than 170 damaged or looted buildings, the St. Paul police said, but no reports of serious injuries.
Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis said at a news conference early Friday morning that he had made the call for officers to flee the Third Precinct, saying “the symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life.”
Mr. Frey, a Democrat, said he understood the anger of the city’s residents but pleaded with people to stop destroying property and stealing from stores.
“It’s not just enough to do the right thing yourself,” he said. “We need to be making sure that all of us are held accountable.”
Mr. Floyd, who was black, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital on Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white officer for about eight minutes. A video of the arrest, in which Mr. Floyd is heard pleading “I can’t breathe,” spread widely online.
“They executed my brother in broad daylight,” Mr. Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told CNN on Thursday, breaking down in tears. “I am just tired of seeing black people dying.”
Prosecutors said they haven’t decided whether to charge the officers involved.
Prosecutors said early Thursday night that they had not yet decided whether to charge any of the four Minneapolis police officers, including the one who knelt on George Floyd’s neck shortly before he died.
State and federal prosecutors are running simultaneous investigations into Mr. Floyd’s death after a video showed Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressing his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who is black, as Mr. Floyd’s body became limp.
Mr. Chauvin and three other officers at the scene, who did nothing to stop Mr. Chauvin, were fired on Tuesday, and Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis has called for Mr. Chauvin to be arrested and charged. The Minneapolis Police Department has identified the other officers as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
“We’re going to investigate it as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands,” Mike Freeman, the county attorney in Hennepin County, said at a news conference. “Sometimes that takes a little time, and we ask people to be patient.”
Mr. Freeman said his office had been flooded with as many as 1,000 calls daily from people who wanted him to bring charges.
“That video is graphic and horrific and terrible, and no person should do that,” Mr. Freeman said of the Minneapolis officer’s actions. “But my job, in the end, is to prove that he violated a criminal statute, and there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.”
Mr. Freeman did not elaborate on any additional evidence. The police had detained Mr. Floyd, a resident of St. Louis Park, Minn., who recently worked as a bouncer at a restaurant, after someone called the police and accused a man of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store.
Erica MacDonald, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, pleaded for peace and said lawyers in her office are working quickly to determine whether they will bring charges against Mr. Chauvin for violating federal laws, including civil rights laws. Ms. MacDonald said she had been in touch with Attorney General William P. Barr about the case.
Ms. MacDonald also apologized, cryptically, after a long delay before the start of the news conference, saying she had believed there would be “another development” before it began. She declined to elaborate on that statement but said further announcements were to come.
Members of Mr. Floyd’s family had earlier called for justice during television appearances.
“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did,” said Bridgett Floyd, his sister. Tera Brown, Mr. Floyd’s cousin, said: “I don’t want the protests to be for just show. I want to see action.”
“This was clearly murder,” she added.
Twitter said President Trump violated its rules against glorifying violence after implying looting demonstrators could be shot.
President Trump called the Minneapolis protesters “thugs” and implied looting demonstrators could be shot in two tweets posted early Friday morning, which Twitter later said violated its rules against promoting violence.
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City,” the president wrote, adding that Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, must “get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”
It was unclear if the president intended to send additional troops after Gov. Tim Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard to help restore order in the Twin Cities. But the president said he was prepared to have the federal government “assume control.”
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd,” Mr. Trump wrote of the demonstrators, “and I won’t let that happen.” He added, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The tweet containing that quote was placed behind what Twitter called a “public interest notice,” which warned users that it “violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence” and required readers to take an extra step to read the president’s full comment.
“Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” the notice said.
Mr. Trump had previously described the video of Mr. Floyd’s death as a “very shocking sight” and “a very very sad event,” saying he had asked the F.B.I.’s investigation to be expedited.
Mr. Frey did not know about Mr. Trump’s tweets until a reporter read them aloud during a news conference early on Friday. The mayor shook his head and then gave a fiery retort, slamming a podium for emphasis.
“Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions,” he said. “Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis.”
Dozens of demonstrators were arrested in New York’s Union Square.
More than 40 people were arrested on Thursday night in Manhattan as hundreds of New Yorkers joined nationwide protests against police brutality. One young woman taken into custody at Union Square yelled “Black lives matter!” as the police dragged her to a paddy wagon, a video posted online showed.
Images on social media showed sometimes chaotic scenes as the mostly young protesters clashed with uniformed officers. Some protesters carried signs that read “No Justice, No Peace” and chanted “I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody has touched a particular nerve in New York because of his dying words, “I can’t breathe.” They have prompted comparisons to Eric Garner, who said the same before he was killed by a police officer on Staten Island in 2014.
Mr. Garner’s death galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Thursday that he wondered “how many times we have to learn the same lesson.”
“I think the situation was so disturbing and ugly, and frightening,” he said of Mr. Floyd’s death. “It was just frightening that a law enforcement officer anywhere in this country could act that way.”
Most of the arrests on Thursday were for civil disobedience or disorderly conduct, the police said, but at least three people were facing charges for threatening police officers.
One person had been carrying a knife, the police said. A second struck a police officer in the head with a trash can and a third punched a different officer in the face with a closed fist. None of the officers were seriously injured, the police said.
Dante Richardson, 21, was among the people in Union Square incensed at the police treatment of young black men who joined the demonstration.
Mr. Richardson said the protesters chanted “N.Y.P.D. racist police.” At one point, Mr. Richardson said, a group of officers on bicycles formed a barricade to hem in the demonstration.
“They put their bikes tire-to-tire,” he said, adding, “They were trying to break us up.”
Protests at State Capitols in Colorado and Ohio turned chaotic.
The State Capitol in Denver was put on lockdown after someone fired a gun near a peaceful demonstration, and protests in Columbus, Ohio, turned chaotic as videos posted by local news outlets showed crowds surging up the steps of the State Capitol and breaking windows.
Leslie Herod, a state representative in Colorado, said that she heard several shots near the statehouse, and that she and other demonstrators scattered, believing that the shots had been fired into the crowd. The Denver Police Department said no injuries were reported.
“This was a completely peaceful rally and someone shot into the crowd and at folks who were protesting in support of the black community and against police brutality,” Ms. Herod said. She added in a text: “This emphasizes how much more we have to do.”
In Ohio, the police could be seen rushing to the Capitol and ordering protesters to disperse. The Columbus Dispatch reported that officers also used pepper spray on large crowds of demonstrators downtown after a few protesters tossed smoke bombs and water bottles at lines of officers. At least one person had been arrested, the newspaper reported.
A video taken at the Denver protest appeared to show the driver of a black sport-utility vehicle driving through a crowd of protesters who had blocked traffic near the statehouse. As a protester jumps off the car, the driver, blaring the horn, veers around and speeds into the protester and knocks him over. It was unclear whether he was injured.
Anabel Escobar, the demonstrator who recorded the video, said she was shaken by what had happened. “I was horrified,” Ms. Escobar said. “It was vicious. She could have killed him.”
Gov. Jared Polis said that Coloradans were better than the displays of vandalism and violence.
“I share the immense anguish we all feel about the unjust murder of George Floyd,” Mr. Polis said in a statement. “But let me be clear, senseless violence will never be healed by more violence.”
On Wednesday night, there were protests in Memphis and Los Angeles, where law enforcement officials faced off with people blocking the 101 Freeway downtown.
The Justice Department promised a thorough investigation of Mr. Floyd’s death.
The Justice Department said on Thursday that it would investigate the officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death and determine whether they should face federal criminal charges.
The investigation will be led by the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, Erica MacDonald, and by F.B.I. agents in Minneapolis. Attorney General William P. Barr and the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Eric Dreiband, are closely monitoring their inquiry, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
“The Department of Justice has made the investigation a top priority and has assigned experienced prosecutors and F.B.I. criminal investigators to the matter,” the department said in a statement.
The department noted that is a violation of federal law for an officer acting in an official capacity to deprive another person of his or her constitutional rights, including the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment.
President Trump has condemned the actions by the officers caught on video and urged the department to expedite the investigation, but he has not reached out to Mr. Floyd’s family. During a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Trump declined to say whether the officers should be prosecuted, but he called the video “shocking.”
The Justice Department has declined to charge police officers in other high-profile cases in which a black person has died in their custody.
In July, after a five-year investigation, the department said it would not bring federal civil rights charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the Staten Island police officer who killed Eric Garner by wrapping his arm around his neck. The killing was caught on video and widely circulated online.
The decision bitterly divided the Justice Department’s civil rights division lawyers, who wanted to charge Mr. Pantaleo, and prosecutors in Brooklyn, who believed they could not win the case at trial.
Mr. Barr ultimately sided with the Brooklyn prosecutors, who had argued that they did not have enough evidence to prove that Mr. Pantaleo committed a federal civil rights violation because they could not prove that he had made a clear decision to use a chokehold, which the New York Police Department had banned, when he killed Mr. Garner.
Like Mr. Floyd, Mr. Garner also gasped “I can’t breathe” just before he died.
Democrats request an investigation into three killings of black people.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department on Thursday to investigate Mr. Floyd’s death along with the recent killings of two other black people: Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot after being pursued by white men near Brunswick, Ga.; and Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police officers in Louisville, Ky., during a “no-knock” raid of her apartment.
The committee members asked the department to open so-called pattern and practice investigations into potential police misconduct in all three cases. Federal law prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of their constitutional rights.
They also asked that the department investigate the local prosecutors who were involved in Mr. Arbery’s case. The two armed men who chased Mr. Arbery had connections to local law enforcement and were not arrested for 74 days, until after a video of the shooting was widely circulated.
Mr. Arbery’s death and the subsequent local investigation “are reminiscent of early 20th century lynchings in the Jim Crow South,” the committee members wrote.
Jerry Nadler, the chair of the committee, said it is considering legislation to address racial profiling and the excessive use of force by police officers.
He noted that the Justice Department has uncovered rampant police abuses in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Cleveland and Chicago, which led the police departments in those cities to negotiate consent decrees with the federal government.
The Minneapolis police have received many excessive force complaints.
Excessive force complaints against Minneapolis officers have become commonplace, especially by African-American residents. One of the officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death, Mr. Chauvin, 44, had several complaints filed against him, three of which led to reprimands for his language and tone.
Mr. Chauvin shot a man who was trying to grab an officer’s gun in 2008, according to The Pioneer Press. He was also present at two other shootings, one of them fatal, but it was unclear if he fired his weapon in those cases, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality, a local organization advocating police reform.
African-Americans account for about 20 percent of the city’s population, but they are more likely to be pulled over, arrested and have force used against them than white residents, Police Department data shows. And black people accounted for more than 60 percent of the victims in Minneapolis police shootings from late 2009 through May 2019, data shows.
Yet there is a deep rift between the city’s police force — which also is predominantly white — and the community, one that seems to grow larger with each killing.
Reporting was contributed by Victoria Bekiempis, Katie Benner, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Audra D.S. Burch, Sopan Deb, John Eligon, Matt Furber, Russell Goldman, Jack Healy, Dan Levin, Edgar Sandoval, Marc Santora and Neil Vigdor.