Politics

Protests explode across U.S. after cop charged with killing George Floyd

Key Points
  • In Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond, thousands of protesters carried signs that said: "He said I can't breathe. Justice for George."
  • Georgia's governor declared a state of emergency early Saturday to activate the state National Guard.
  • The Pentagon ordered the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis.
  • An attorney for the wife of former police officer Derek Chauvin told NBC News that she has filed to end their marriage.
A demonstrator confronts police in Los Angeles, California on May 29, 2020.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Imgaes

Follow updates about protests over George Floyd's death on the NBC News live blog.

Georgia's governor declared a state of emergency early Saturday to activate the state National Guard as violence flared in Atlanta and in dozens of cities nationwide following the death in Minnesota of George Floyd after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck while taking him into custody.

Another 500 Guard soldiers were mobilized in Minneapolis and surrounding cities, where Floyd died and an officer faced charges Friday in his death.

Police officers are seen during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of African-American man George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., May 29, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

The Guard was also on standby in the District of Columbia, where a crowd grew outside the White House and chanted curses at President Donald Trump. Some protesters tried to push through barriers set up by the U.S. Secret Service along Pennsylvania Avenue, and threw bottles and other objects at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with pepper spray.

A person was killed in downtown Detroit just before midnight after someone in an SUV fired shots into a crowd of protesters near the city's Greektown entertainment district, police said. In Portland, Oregon, protesters attacked police headquarters Friday night and authorities said they lit a fire inside. In Virginia's capital, a police cruiser was set on fire outside Richmond police headquarters, and a city transit spokeswoman said a bus set ablaze was "a total loss," news outlets reported.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a pair of tweets that up to 500 members of the Guard would deploy immediately "to protect people & property in Atlanta."

Protesters set a police vehicle on fire during a protest following the death of George Floyd outside of the CNN Center next to Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, United States on May 29, 2020.
Ben Hendren | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

He said he acted at the request of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who earlier appealed in vain for calm.

Late Friday, the Pentagon took the rare step of ordering the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis.

Soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York have been ordered to be ready to deploy within four hours if called, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders. Soldiers in Fort Carson, in Colorado, and Fort Riley in Kansas have been told to be ready within 24 hours. 

In scenes both peaceful and violent across the nation, thousands of protesters chanted "No justice, no peace" and "Say his name. George Floyd." They hoisted signs reading: "He said I can't breathe. Justice for George."

Some demonstrators smashed police cars and spray-painted the iconic logo sign at CNN headquarters. At least three officers were hurt and there were multiple arrests, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said, as protesters shot at officers with BB guns and threw bricks, bottles and knives.

People protest outside the CNN Center on May 29, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Demonstrations are being held across the U.S. after George Floyd died in police custody on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Elijah Nouvelage | Getty Images

Atlanta officials reported a fire at Del Frisco's restaurant in the Buckhead neighborhood, several miles north of the protest site downtown, and officials said crews were unable to reach the fire because of protesters there.

"This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.," Bottoms implored the protesters to no avail. "You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country."

Bottoms was flanked by King's daughter, Bernice King, and rappers T.I. and Killer Mike.

"We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta what have we got?" said Killer Mike, who cried as he spoke.

In Minneapolis, there were scattered small fires and some stores in a strip mall were broken into near the city's 5th Precinct.

Video posted to social media showed New York City officers using batons and shoving protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared streets. One video posted to social media showed on officer slam a woman to the ground as he walked past her in the street.

Protesters gather at Barclays Center to protest the recent killing of George Floyd on May 29, 2020 in Brooklyn in New York City.
Kevin Mazur | Getty Images

Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, then scrawled graffiti across its charred hulk and set it on fire a second time as officers retreated from the area. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter another police vehicle.

"We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn," Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. "Our sole focus is deescalating this situation and getting people home safe. There will be a full review of what happened tonight. We don't ever want to see another night like this."

A vandalized New York Police Department vehicle is seen the morning after a protest following the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., May 30, 2020.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters

The police department said numerous officers were injured, including one who had a tooth knocked out.

The names of black people killed by police, including Floyd and Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014, were on signs carried by those in the crowd, and in their chants.

Protesters face off with police outside the White House in Washington, DC, early on May 30, 2020 during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for several minutes.
Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images

"It's my duty to be out here," said Brianna Petrisko, among those at Foley Square in lower Manhattan, where most were wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. "Our country has a sickness. We have to be out here. This is the only way we're going to be heard."

Protesters in Houston, where George Floyd grew up, included 19-year-old Jimmy Ohaz, who came from the nearby city of Richmond, Texas.

"My question is how many more, how many more? I just want to live in a future where we all live in harmony and we're not oppressed."

VIDEO1:5701:57
Images from protests in Minneapolis over death of George Floyd

Demonstrators on the West Coast blocked highways in Los Angeles and Oakland.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies shot at a fleeing SUV that was shown on video striking protesters before fleeing the scene. San Jose police reported the shooting but said their officers were not involved.

Portland, Oregon, police said at least one shooting was tied to the protest, although details weren't immediately available. Officers also said that gas was deployed after people threw projectiles at them.

Earlier, thousands of people attended a peaceful evening vigil that lasted three hours. Hundreds then began marching through downtown, with scattered vandalism along the route. Officers declared the event an "unlawful assembly" around 11 p.m., saying they would use force to disperse crowds.

About 1,000 protesters in Oakland, California, smashed windows, sprayed buildings with "Kill Cops" graffiti and were met with chemical spray from police. Oakland Police said several officers were injured by projectiles.

Police officers stand in line during a protest sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 29, 2020 in Oakland, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Several demonstrators were detained in Los Angeles and one officer received medical treatment, police said. An LAPD vehicle had its windows smashed, and CNN reported that someone wrote "killer" on a patrol car. At least one city bus was vandalized, and police declared an unlawful assembly throughout downtown.

Protesters repeatedly clashed with police in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose, said Mayor Sam Liccardo, and police responded with flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets. One officer was being treated at a hospital for an injury that was not life-threatening, he and police officials said.

Liccardo said his own officers shared the community's outrage over Floyd's in-custody death.

"It was a horrible injustice. I'd venture to guess that every police officer out there feels much of the same anger about what happened in Minneapolis," he told The Associated Press.

Former officer charged

Protests roiled the country the same day Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He also was accused of ignoring another officer who expressed concerns about Floyd as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe as Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a store.

Booking photo of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin
Photo provided by Ramsey County Jail

Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers who were at the scene, faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted of murder.

An attorney for Floyd's family welcomed the arrest but said he expected a more serious murder charge and wants the other officers arrested, too.

VIDEO3:1803:18
Ex-Minneapolis policeman arrested after violent protests erupt across U.S. over death of George Floyd

An attorney for Kellie Chauvin, the wife of Derek Chauvin, told NBC News late Friday night that she has filed to end their marriage.

"This evening, I spoke with Kellie Chauvin and her family," the attorney said. "She is devastated by Mr. Floyd's death and her utmost sympathy lies with his family, with his loved ones and with everyone who is grieving this tragedy. She has filed for dissolution of her marriage to Derek Chauvin."

"While Ms. Chauvin has no children from her current marriage," the attorney continued, "she respectfully requests that her children, her elder parents, and her extended family be given safety and privacy during this difficult time."

—CNBC contributed to this report.

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