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National Guard on US streets, cities under curfew as protests rage

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Los Angeles and San Francisco are under curfew as US cities prepare for another night of violent protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody, with the National Guard called out amid continued confrontations between activists and law enforcement.

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What began as peaceful demonstrations over the death of Floyd, who died as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, have become a wave of outrage sweeping a politically and racially divided nation.

Protesters have flooded streets after weeks of lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic that threw millions out of work and hit minority communities especially hard.

As demonstrators broke windows and set fires, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds in many cities. In some cases, bystanders and members of the media were targeted.

In one video from Minneapolis, a National Guard Humvee rolls down a residential street followed by what appear to be police officers wearing tactical gear.

One officer orders residents to go inside, then yells “light ’em up” before shooting projectiles at a group of people on their front porch. The city’s curfew does not apply to residents outside on their private property.

In New York City, police arrested about 350 people overnight and 30 officers suffered minor injuries.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said police conduct was being investigated, including widely shared videos showing a police vehicle in Brooklyn lurching into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with debris.

De Blasio said he had not seen a separate video showing an officer pulling down the mask of a black protester who had his hands in the air, then spraying a substance in his face.

The closely packed crowds and demonstrators not wearing masks sparked fears of a resurgence of COVID-19, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans.

Violence spread overnight despite curfews in several major cities rocked by civil unrest in recent days including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, Cincinnati, Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky.

The clashes in Minneapolis marked the fifth night of arson, looting and vandalism in parts of the state’s largest city, and its adjacent capital, St. Paul.

The state’s governor said on Saturday that he was activating the full Minnesota National Guard for the first time since World War II.

Thousands of people gathered on Sunday afternoon for a rally in St. Paul as state troopers surrounded the state capitol building.

About 170 stores have been looted and some burned to the ground in St. Paul, its mayor said.

“We are seeing in St. Paul and obviously around the country this level of rage and anger that frankly is legitimate, as we see this horrific video of George Floyd being just suffocated to death,” Mayor Melvin Carter told CNN on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, it’s being expressed right now, over the past week, in ways that are destructive and unacceptable.”

The administration of President Donald Trump, who has called protesters “thugs”, will not federalise and take control of the National Guard for now, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said.

Trump said on Sunday that the US government will designate anti-fascist group Antifa as a terrorist organisation. It was not clear how many, if any, are from Antifa.

The arrest on murder charges on Friday of Derek Chauvin, the officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, has failed to satisfy protesters. Three officers who stood by as Floyd died have yet to be charged.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has declared a citywide curfew for Sunday night as violent protests rage throughout the city in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Breed says the curfew will last from 8pm on Sunday to 5am on Monday.

The mayor says she has asked Governor Gavin Newsom to put the California National Guard on standby.

Authorities say there have been increased levels of violence, crime, vandalism and assaults on police officers on Saturday night as the protests took a dark turn.

Los Angeles is already under a citywide curfew overnight and the National Guard is en route to help police quell the violence.

Several cities throughout the Los Angeles area declared 8pm curfews on Saturday, including Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

Some 700 National Guard troops were expected to be called in to help restore order, as looting took place in the Fairfax area and in downtown LA.

An Adidas Flagship store on Melrose Avenue was looted, as a group of protesters broke into the store and were seen leaving with merchandise.

A group of people had been making their way along the famous LA shopping street home to boutiques and specialty stores breaking storefront windows and causing destruction along the way. Other stores included Altivo, a watch store and a nail salon where a group were seen breaking an ATM on the street.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was working to put out fires at several stores in the 7600 block of West Melrose Avenue.

Earlier in the day, protesters clashed with police at Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

As a demonstration moved toward The Grove, there was looting at the two-floor Nordstrom department store and a Ray Ban sunglasses flagship boutique.

As news of an 8pm Los Angeles curfew began to spread via broadcast news and mobile phone alerts, nearby shops like the luxury sneaker consignment store Flight Deck were fully robbed of inventory. Moving further west into the border of Beverly Hills, a CVS Pharmacy superstore on La Cienega Blvd was stormed by masked people breaking safety glass with abandoned electric scooters.

A police department kiosk was set ablaze at The Grove.

British designer Vivienne Westwood’s Melrose Avenue boutique was vandalised. Marc Jacobs’ eponymous boutique at the corner of trendy Melrose Place saw demolished storefronts.

“Protestors are entering the city of Beverly Hills,” read a tweet on the city’s Twitter feed.

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