'When the looting starts, the shooting starts': Trump weighs in on Minneapolis protests


Minneapolis: US President Donald Trump has weighed in on the Minnesota protests in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody, tweeting "when the looting starts, the shooting starts".

The National Guard has been deployed to the streets to help quell the riots, after Trump earlier threatened to bring them in if "the very weak radical left mayor Jacob Frey" didn't bring the city under control.

Amid intense national scrutiny and a heavy police presence, black CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his television crew were arrested by Minnesota police on live television.

"We can move back to where you like," he told the officers wearing gas masks and face shields, before explaining live on air that he and his crew were members of the press. "We're getting out of your way.

"This is among the state patrol unit that was advancing up the street, seeing and scattering the protesters at that point for people to clear the area. And so we walked away," Jimenez said before being told he was under arrest and handcuffed by two officers. "Why am I under arrest, sir?"

The anchor of the program is then heard saying, "If you're just tuning in, you are watching our correspondent being arrested". The CNN crew have since been released from police custody.

Earlier, protesters set a police precinct building on fire in Minneapolis and riots spread to neighbouring St Paul.

A protester gestures in front of the burning third precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department on Thursday.Credit: AP

"I can't stand back and watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis," Trump tweeted.

"These THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"

Twitter later added a note to Trump's tweet saying it violated the social media's platform about glorifying violence but that it remained in the public interest to keep it on the site.

The Minneapolis police station for the third precinct - which housed the officers connected to Floyd's death - was set on fire by protesters who had also looted local businesses, according to the twitter account of the Star Tribune.

Protesters gather in front of the burning third precinct station of the Minneapolis Police Department.Credit: AP

It was the third consecutive night of violent protests following Floyd's death on Monday. In footage recorded by a bystander on Monday, Floyd, a black man, can be seen pleading that he can't breathe as Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneels on his neck.

Mayor Frey hit back at Trump's comments at a media briefing saying he knew nothing of "the strength" of Minneapolis.

"Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions, weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else at a time of crisis," he said.

"Is this a difficult time period? Yes, but you’re going to be damn sure we’re going to get through this."

Mr Frey said firefighters and police were dealing with multiple fires and instances of looting.

"We are doing absolutely everything we can to keep the peace," he said. "This is one of the most difficult situations that our city has been through. I’m not going to stand up here and say there are easy answers to it, because there are not."

Protesters set fires at the third precinct station of the Minneapolis Police Department.Credit: AP

As night descended, people swung baseball bats and fireworks abruptly lit up the sky. Demonstrators carried clothing mannequins from a looted store and threw them onto a burning car. Fires broke out. Gunshots rang out and some people carried large boxes from shops as police helicopters lingered overhead.

But elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets calling for justice.

Erika Atson, 20, was among thousands of people who gathered outside government offices in downtown Minneapolis earlier in the day, where organisers had called a peaceful protest.

Atson, who is black, described seeing her 14 and 11-year-old brothers tackled by Minneapolis police years ago because officers mistakenly presumed the boys had guns. She said she had been at "every single protest" since Floyd's death and worried about raising children who could be vulnerable in police encounters.

"We don't want to be here fighting against anyone. We don't want anyone to be hurt. We don't want to cause any damages," she said. "We just want the police officer to be held accountable."

A man breaks a window at the Furniture Barn store on University Avenue West, on Thursday in St Paul, Minnesota.Credit: St. Cloud Times

Much of the Minneapolis violence occurred in the Longfellow neighbourhood, where protesters converged on the precinct station. In a strip mall across the street, the windows of nearly every business had been smashed, from the large Target department store at one end to the Planet Fitness gym at the other. Only the 24-hour laundromat appeared to have escaped unscathed.

"WHY US?" demanded a large expanse of red graffiti scrawled on the wall of the Target store. A Wendy's restaurant across the street was charred almost beyond recognition.

Among the casualties of the overnight fires: a six-storey building under construction that was to provide nearly 200 apartments of affordable housing.

"We're burning our own neighbourhood," said a distraught Deona Brown, a 24-year-old woman standing with a friend outside the precinct station, where a small group of protesters were shouting at a dozen or so stone-faced police officers in riot gear. "This is where we live, where we shop, and they destroyed it." No officers could be seen beyond the station.

"What that cop did was wrong, but I'm scared now," Brown said.

Young men stand atop a burning car in the Target parking lot.Credit: Star Tribune

The protests were more violent than Tuesday's, which included skirmishes between offices and protesters but no widespread property damage.

"If the strategy was to keep residents safe - it failed," City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who is black, tweeted. "Prevent property damage - it failed." He urged police to leave the scene of violence, saying their presence brought people into the streets.

Protests have also spread to other cities including New York, Los Angeles, Memphis, Denver and Columbus.

At least seven people were shot in Louisville on Thursday night as protesters turned out to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in her home in March.

Amid the violence in Minneapolis, a man was found fatally shot on Wednesday night near a pawn shop, possibly by the owner, authorities said.

The US Attorney's Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said they were conducting "a robust criminal investigation" into the death. President Donald Trump has said he had asked an investigation to be expedited.

Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck, was fired on Tuesday along with three other officers involved in the arrest. The next day, the mayor called for Chauvin to be criminally charged.

AP, staff reporters