Protesters overrun a Minneapolis police building and set it aflame as officers retreat.
Protesters broke windows and charged over fences to breach a police precinct in Minneapolis late Thursday night and set it on fire, as demonstrations boiled over after the killing of George Floyd. A video of Mr. Floyd, a black man, struggling to breathe this week as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against the man’s neck until his body went limp has incited protests across the country.
The unrest escalated even after Gov. Tim Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard, which sent 500 soldiers to Minneapolis and St. Paul, the capital, saying he supported peaceful demonstrations but was bothered by the level of destruction on Wednesday — buildings on fire, clashes with the police and looted stores.
After prosecutors said on Thursday that they had not decided whether to press charges against the officer, protesters again gathered near the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. Some tossed fireworks and other items toward officers, while the police fired projectiles at the demonstrators.
Around 10 p.m. local time, police officers retreated from the precinct in their vehicles and 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 breached the building. Soon after, flames began to rise from the front of the building as hundreds of protesters looked on.
Footage from helicopter cameras showed flames billowing from the roofs of the precinct and nearby local businesses late on Thursday night.
Other protests were held throughout the United States, including in New York, Denver, Albuquerque and Louisville, Ky. In St. Paul, police officers in riot gear skirmished with protesters and several businesses were vandalized, according to photographs posted on Twitter and local media. Smoke could be seen billowing from a NAPA auto parts store, and the windows of a Goodwill store were broken.
“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 afternoon proclamation. “These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators and other Minnesotans, and both first responders and demonstrators have already been injured.”
Mr. Floyd, 46, died on Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground 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,” Philonise Floyd told CNN on Thursday morning, breaking down in tears. “I am just tired of seeing black people dying.”
At a news conference on Thursday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis said the destructive protests were a reflection of the black community’s anger over 400 years of inequality. “What we’ve seen over the last two days and the emotion-ridden conflict over the last night is the result of so much built-up anger and sadness,” he said.
Prosecutors said on 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, until 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 district 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 want 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 offense, 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.
“We’ll have it timed right,” she said.
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.”
Mr. Floyd’s death has touched a particular nerve in New York because his dying words — “I can’t breathe” — prompted comparisons to Eric Garner, who died in police custody on Staten Island in 2014.
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, a police spokesman, Officer Andrew Lava, 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 shouted at the officers and chanted “N.Y.P.D. racist police.” At one point, Mr. Richardson said, he saw between 80 and 100 officers. A group mounted 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.”
The Colorado State Capitol was put on lockdown after gunshots near a protest.
The State Capitol in Denver was put on lockdown after someone fired a gun near a peaceful demonstration over the death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, one of many protests in cities across the country.
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. She said it did not appear as if anyone had been injured.
“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.”
The Denver Police Department said that there were no injuries reported, and that officers had not immediately determined a motive.
A video taken at the protest also 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 of the vehicle, said she was shaken by what had happened.
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. Panataleo 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.
The Minnesota State Capitol was evacuated because of nearby unrest.
Lawmakers and employees at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., were told to evacuate the building as a precaution on Thursday afternoon, after looting continued at nearby stores.
St. Paul police officers encountered large groups of people stealing merchandise from a Target store and other businesses in the city’s Midway neighborhood, said St. Paul Police Department spokesman Steve Linder.
Some threw rocks, liquor bottles and bricks at the responding officers, while another group of people rushed into a Foot Locker, he said, noting that a fight broke out in the parking lot.
“Our officers have been busy trying to keep things calm and de-escalate when possible, and protect people and property,” Mr. Linder said.
As crowds of protesters gathered in increasing numbers a few blocks away from the Capitol, the secretary of the Senate ordered staff members and legislators to leave the building at about 1:30 p.m. local time, according to staff members. About an hour later, the Capitol Security Department of Public Safety ordered all Capitol staff and employees to evacuate.
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 police said they were investigating a fatal shooting near a looted pawnshop in the area where Wednesday night’s protests occurred.
In a news conference early Thursday morning, a Minneapolis Police Department spokesman, John Elder, said two officers responded to a call near the Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry shop, where they found the victim in grave condition on the sidewalk. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Mr. Elder declined to confirm media reports that the victim was involved in looting, or whether the store owner was the shooter.
“That is one of the theories we’re looking into,” he said, noting that the crime is still under investigation. “We want to make sure that we do in fact have all of the facts moving forward. We don’t want to cast aspersions on somebody if in fact they weren’t doing anything wrong.”
A suspect was taken into custody, Mr. Elder said, but he declined to provide the suspect’s identity, citing investigative protocol.
The violence came at the end of what had been a tense period.
Protesters began gathering Wednesday afternoon outside the Third Precinct headquarters, but by early evening, officers were trying to disperse the crowds using flash-bang grenades and tear gas.
Some residents of the area said Thursday that they believed people from outside the city had been responsible for a large portion of the fires and looting.
“This is just painful,” said Cynthia Montana, 57. “I don’t think the people who did the looting and all this destruction are the same as the peaceful protesters that have been at Cup Foods,” where Mr. Floyd was arrested on Monday.
“I’m a protester,” Ms. Montana said. “It was so peaceful over there.”
She said the nearby neighborhood is diverse, but in the broader Twin Cities community, there are huge racial disparities.
“It’s like layer and layer and layer of gunpowder building over a long time,” she said, “and when you become an adult, it’s this stick of dynamite.”
The episode was seen as part of a broader pattern of devastating encounters between African-Americans and law enforcement denounced by civil rights leaders. It has laid bare tensions between members of the local community and the 800-plus police force in Minneapolis, a divide mirrored in other communities across the country.
Mr. Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, called for justice on NBC’s “Today” show.
“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did,” Ms. Floyd said.
“I don’t want the protests to be for just show,” said Tera Brown, Mr. Floyd’s cousin, who appeared with two of Mr. Floyd’s brothers. “I want to see action.”
“This was clearly murder,” she added. “We want to see them arrested; we want to see them charged; we want to see them convicted for what they did.”
Stephen Jackson, the former N.B.A. player and now podcast host, told “The Today Show” on Thursday that the death of Mr. Floyd, a longtime friend, “destroyed” him.
“I jumped up, screamed, scared my daughter and almost broke my hand punching stuff because I was so mad,” Mr. Jackson said, describing his reaction when he learned the news.
Mr. Jackson told “The Breakfast Club” podcast that he grew up with Mr. Floyd in the Houston area. He joked that they looked so much alike that they could have the same father, so would refer to each other as “Twin.”
“Neighborhoods, they all get beefing,” Mr. Jackson said. “But you always have one guy that can go to all the neighborhoods and everybody will rock with him. Floyd was that guy.”
In a report on Mr. Floyd’s arrest, the Minneapolis police said they had been investigating an accusation of someone trying to pass a fake $20 bill on Monday in the southern part of the city when they confronted a man who was sitting on a blue car and was later identified as Mr. Floyd.
“He was ordered to step from his car,” the Police Department said in a statement on Monday. “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
Video footage from nearby security cameras and bystanders did not show any attempt by Mr. Floyd to resist officers. Instead, it showed him begging for his life as he lay handcuffed on the ground, one officer grinding a knee into his neck while three others stood by.
When asked about the Floyd case at his daily coronavirus news briefing on Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who previously served as the state’s attorney general, said that he believes prosecutors could bring a criminal case against the police officer who restrained Mr. Lloyd.
“I don’t prejudge a case. Maybe there are facts that I don’t know. But, I’ll tell you, if I was a prosecutor, I would be looking at that case from the first moment. Because I think there is a criminal case there,” Mr. Cuomo said.
“I think the situation was so disturbing and ugly, and frightening. It was just frightening that a law enforcement officer anywhere in this country could act that way,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo brought up the case of Mr. Garner, whose death at the hands of a New York City police officer in 2014 galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Sometimes you say you rationalize in your own mind, ‘Well this is terrible, but we’ll learn from it.’ How many times do we have to learn the same lesson?” he said. “We went through it in New York. We had the Garner case in New York. How many times do you have to learn the same lesson?”
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, Jack Healy, Dan Levin, Edgar Sandoval, Marc Santora and Neil Vigdor.