Peaceful rallies gave way to a third night of arson, looting and vandalism in Minneapolis on Thursday as protesters vented their rage over the death of a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck.
The latest spasm of unrest in Minnesota’s largest city went largely unchecked, despite Governor Tim Walz ordering the National Guard activated to help restore order following the first two days of disturbances sparked by Monday night’s fatal arrest of George Floyd, 46.
In contrast with Wednesday night, when rock-throwing demonstrators clashed repeatedly with police in riot gear, law enforcement kept a low profile around the epicenter of the unrest, outside the city’s Third Precinct police station.
Protesters massing outside the building briefly retreated under volleys of police tear gas and rubber bullets fired at them from the roof, only to reassemble and eventually attack the building head on, setting fire to the structure as police seemed to withdraw. Protesters were later observed on the roof.
The city authority warned about ‘unconfirmed’ reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct police station were cut and that there were other explosives in the building. It appealed to people to retreat from the building.
A car and at least two other buildings in the vicinity were also set ablaze, and looters returned for a second night to a nearby Target discount store, left boarded up and vacant from the previous night, to make off with whatever remained inside.
Fire officials said 16 buildings were torched on Wednesday night.
President Donald Trump on Twitter said that he will send the National Guard troops and “get the job done right” if Mayor Jacob Frey failed to bring the city under control.
“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he wrote in tweets posted late midnight.
The Minnesota National Guard said it had “activated” more than 500 soldiers to assist local authorities, and mainly the fire departments, in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding areas.