Protests and looting escalated in Minneapolis Thursday, on the third night of demonstrations over the death of George Floyd at the hands of local police, as protesters set fire to the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct. Officers fled from the building around 10 p.m. as demonstrators were able to break into the building. Video of the scene showed protesters streaming into the precinct where the officers who were involved in Floyd’s fatal arrest worked, ransacking and setting fire to the office. Soon smoke billowed from the roof as the building was engulfed in flames.
Nearby, fires billowed from local businesses that the fire department said it was unable to access because of safety concerns.
Violence flared throughout the night in portions of the city, as groups of looters broke into area businesses, destroyed storefronts, and in some cases set stores and restaurants alight. Fireworks were thrown at local police and bricks were used to smash police car windows, the Washington Post reports. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency, activating 500 members of the Minnesota National Guard. In neighboring St. Paul, the state Capitol was evacuated as a precaution. In the early hours of Friday morning, the St. Paul police said that dozens of fires were blazing and damage had been done to 170 businesses.
Angry protests over Floyd’s death spilled into other cities around the country Thursday, including New York; Denver; Phoenix; Columbus, Ohio; and Louisville, Kentucky. What started as a peaceful protest against police violence in Columbus turned violent as demonstrators broke into the Statehouse and smashed windows.
In Denver, protests at the state Capitol grew tense after a video on social media showed a driver appearing to deliberately hit a protester. Gunshots fired near the Capitol sent demonstrators scrambling, the Denver Post reports, as city police fired tear gas canisters and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. In Phoenix, police used rubber bullets and pepper spray on protesters who countered by throwing water bottles and rocks back, according to the Arizona Republic.
In Louisville, seven people were shot and one critically injured amid anti–police violence protests demanding justice for the March killing of 26-year-old emergency room technician Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her home by police conducting a “no-knock” raid on the apartment. During a call made to 911 as the incident unfolded, local Louisville news station WDRB reports, Taylor’s boyfriend can be heard telling the dispatcher “he didn’t know what was happening and that someone ‘kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend.’ ”
Michael McDowell, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement in Minneapolis, explained the protesters’ anger and actions this way: “There are folks reacting to a violent system. … You can replace property, you can replace businesses, you can replace material things, but you can’t replace a life. That man is gone forever because some cop felt like he had the right to take his life. A lot of folks are tired of that. They’re not going to take it anymore.” That’s why, McDowell explained, “Minneapolis is burning.”