Minneapolis erupts for third night as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation


Violent demonstrations erupted for a third night in Minneapolis on Thursday, as protesters — outraged over the death of an unarmed African American man in police custody — torched a city police station and President Trump threatened to respond with "shooting."

Footage of the chaos shows crowds of protesters cheering as the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct was set ablaze — a response to the death Monday night of George Floyd, a 46-year-old pronounced dead shortly after a city police officer pinned Floyd's head to the street with a knee on his neck.

"I can't breathe," Floyd protested. Minutes later, medical responders found him without a pulse.

A video of the incident quickly spread across the internet, sparking immediate protests in Minneapolis, where civil rights activists and Floyd's family urged the arrest of the officers involved. Those calls are spreading to Capitol Hill, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has characterized the incident as “an execution” and Sen. Kamala Harris (D), former attorney general of California, wants the arresting officer to face murder charges. 

While four officers were fired, no arrests have been made — a dynamic that helped trigger the escalation of violence on Thursday night, even despite calls for calm from city officials and Gov. Tim Walz's (D) decision to activate the Minnesota National Guard. 

Some protesters turned to looting and then setting afire businesses in the area.

"If you are feeling anger or sadness, I get it. It is not only understandable, it is — it is righteous," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Thursday night. "But we cannot allow that anger and sadness to so negatively impact our communities."

Despite the pleas, parts of Minneapolis resembled a war zone late Thursday. And the incident sent shock waves well beyond Minnesota: Violent protests also flared up in Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio.

Trump wasted no time responding, taking to Twitter in the earliest hours of Friday morning to attack Frey for “a total lack of leadership” and warn protesters that they might be shot. 

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” he tweeted. “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!"

That message sparked a conflict of a whole different sort: Twitter, which this week for the first time attached notes to tweets from Trump, added a warning to readers that the "THUGS" post violated the company’s rules against “glorifying violence.”

Twitter did allow Trump's tweet to remain on its platform, stating that it was in "the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” But to access it, readers have to take the additional step of clicking on the warning. 

In Louisville, seven people were shot Thursday night during protests over a separate incident: the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman shot by police officers in her apartment in a botched raid. 

On Thursday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee pressed the Justice Department to open investigations into the Floyd and Taylor killings, as well as that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man fatally shot by vigilantes in February while he was jogging through a neighborhood in south Georgia. 

The confluence of tragedies has once again shone a spotlight on issues of race and bias in the criminal justice system, sparking a national debate about racial profiling, police tactics and the role of the federal government in overseeing local law enforcement agencies. And they come at an exceedingly volatile time, when the country is already grappling with the health and economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit minority communities particularly hard.  

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Judiciary panel, said Democrats will be conducting oversight, and weighing legislation, “to address the crisis of racial profiling, excessive force by law enforcement and lost trust between police departments and the communities they serve.”

Adding to the confusion and outrage, Minneapolis state police on Friday morning arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his two-person camera crew as they reported on the protests.

The cameras were rolling as Jimenez — who was filming in an area where protesters had been cleared — told the officers that they were reporters, stating that they would happily move to a location that suits the troopers. Moments later, he was put under arrest.

“Why am I under arrest, sir? Why am I under arrest, sir?” Jimenez said as an officer tightened disposable cuff restraints around his wrists and began walking him away from his crew. 

While they were later released, the move by the police ignited a firestorm.

The Minneapolis state police said in a statement on its Twitter account that the three members of the CNN crew “were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.” Critics have argued that the arrests were unnecessary, noting that they identified themselves immediately to the police, had professional video equipment and could have produced CNN badges. And Walz quickly apologized, saying the arrests were “totally unacceptable.” 

The episode comes amid growing scrutiny of the Minneapolis police.

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a former police chief, called Friday in a Washington Post op-ed for a “serious” review of police practices, hiring standards, training, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, early warning programs and more.

“As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?” Demings wrote.