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As Minneapolis reels, protests over Floyd’s death spread nationwide

Minneapolis is bracing for a possible fourth consecutive night of violent protest. Outrage has gripped the city -- and the country -- since the Monday death of George Floyd at the hands of city police. On Friday, the white police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck as he gasped for breath was arrested. Yamiche Alcindor reports and Judy Woodruff speaks with special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The city of Minneapolis is bracing for a possible fourth straight night of violent protests. Outrage has echoed there and around the country since the death on Monday of George Floyd at the hands of police.

    President Trump threatened to send in the National Guard, if necessary, to bring Minneapolis under control. The white police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck as he gasped for breath was arrested today, and charged with murder and manslaughter.

    Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    A night full of nationwide protests, amid a pandemic, from New York City to Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles.

    For the third straight day, throngs of people took to the streets, outraged by the death of George Floyd. On Monday, Minneapolis police arrested Floyd, who was black. While detaining him, a white officer pinned him to the ground by his neck. Floyd could be heard saying, "I can't breathe."

  • George Floyd:

    I can't breathe. Please, a knee on my neck.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    By the time an ambulance arrived, Floyd had no pulse. The four officers have been fired.

    And, today, the officer who had his knee on Floyd's neck, Derek Chauvin, was arrested, four days after Floyd's death.

    The Hennepin County attorney, Mike Freeman, spoke this afternoon.

  • Michael Freeman:

    He has been charged with third-degree murder. We are in the process of continuing to review the evidence. There may be subsequent charges later.

    We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job, to protect us. They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Soon after, Floyd's family issued a statement.

    They said the arrest was a — quote — "overdue step on the road to justice." But they added that the charges should be revised. They said — quote — "We want a first-degree murder charge. We want to see other officers arrested. We call on the authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer."

  • Protesters:

    I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Last night, on the streets of Minneapolis, there were chants of Floyd's dying words. Fury turned to scenes of chaos.

    National Guard troops were deployed to confront hundreds of protesters who flooded the streets. Some of the demonstrations turned violent. Looters smashed windows and rifled through stores. A police station was even torched after officers evacuated it during the chaos. Flames could still be seen rising above the building as a mass of people gathered in the street.

    Watching from Washington, President Trump took to Twitter, calling the protesters — quote — "thugs." He threatened military intervention, writing — quote — "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

    Twitter hid the tweet, saying it violated its rules, and then added a warning saying it glorified violence. The president blasted the social media company, and the White House's official Twitter account reposted president's Trump's initial words.

    This afternoon, President Trump weighed in again.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have asked that the Department of Justice expedite the federal investigation into his death and do it immediately, do it as quickly as absolutely possible. It's a local situation, but we're also making it into a federal situation. And it's — it's a terrible thing. We all saw what we saw.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In Minneapolis, upheaval continued into the morning, when Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN reporter on the scene.

  • Omar Jimenez:

    OK. Do you mind telling me why I'm under arrest, sir?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Omar Jimenez, who is black, was put in handcuffs after he identified himself as a journalist. He was later released.

    Buildings set afire last night still smoldered today. Daylight revealed the wreckage.

    Minnesota Governor Tim Walz acknowledged the protesters' frustration, but called for peace.

  • Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.:

    And now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world. And the world is watching. We have to restore order to our society before we can start addressing the issues.

  • Protesters:

    No justice, no peace!

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Meanwhile, last night, in Louisville, Kentucky, hundreds gathered in front of City Hall last night to protest a separate killing of a black person by police.

    In March, officers shot and killed emergency room technician Breonna Taylor in her home. Some of the demonstrations turned violent, and at least seven people were shot.

    Many say the protests gripping the nation come from a deep pain borne by the African American community as a result of widespread injustices.

    Sherrilyn Ifill is the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

  • Sherrilyn Ifill:

    For us, you know, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what our community has suffered, when you see that number 100,000 dead and how many of them are African-Americans, and when you see the years and years and decades of police violence against unarmed African-Americans, and the ways in which the justice system has failed us, and the ways in which our lives have been diminished in this country, yes it is powerful and heavy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, former President Barack Obama also weighed in.

    In a statement, he said — quote — "It falls on all of us to work together to create a new normal, in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts."

    Back in Minnesota, the mayor of Minneapolis announced a curfew starting at 8:00 p.m. tonight. There and around the country, more protests are expected.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Late this afternoon, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Lindsey Graham, announced that his committee will hold a hearing as soon as possible on police use of force in the wake of Floyd's death.

    Let's go back to the Twin Cities now and to our special correspondent there, Fred de Sam Lazaro. Fred has called that area home for four decades. And, today, he has been out in the Midway neighborhood. It's a place where there were protests, civil disobedience, and looting last night.

    I spoke with him just a short time ago.

    Hello, Fred de Sam Lazaro.

    So, tell us about this Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, where you have been reporting today. Tell us what you're seeing there.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    At the moment, we're seeing a lull and a lot of cleanup, Judy.

    This is a neighborhood that's just east of the Minneapolis line. And in a community, a larger community that has really fretted the inequality between its white and non-white citizens, this is supposed to be a shining example of urban revitalization.

    There's a brand spanking new professional soccer stadium just in front of me. There are major department stores and grocery store, chain stores here, all considered a vote of confidence in the vitality of this neighborhood.

    But more than anything else, there are hundreds of small businesses, most of them minority- and immigrant-owned, and at least 200 of them, by the latest tally, in St. Paul alone were damaged or are total losses from last night's carnage.

    We visited this morning with Kyung Park, an immigrant from Korea, who owns a hip-hop clothing store. As he surveyed the damage this morning, we also caught him shooing away a looter who was rummaging through it.

    And here's what he had to say:

  • Kyung Park:

    This business started about 20-plus years ago. I take over 13 years ago.

    If possible, I want to do it again, because I see so many nice customers, so nice neighbors. So, if possible, I want to reopen, and live together with them.

    I'm sorry. I'm sorry about that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, you could see how affected he was, Fred. And you were telling us the business owners, many of them expressed anger and frustration that their businesses were not protected last night.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    Indeed.

    Another criticism of police in general is that, where they were present, they were protecting the assets of large companies, like Target, and that certainly happened here. Police had a cordon around it, and it sustained no damage from yesterday.

    Two hundred businesses, including the one that is right behind me, a sporting goods store, were total losses. So, that is a criticism, indeed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Fred, as some of these people were cleaning up, they told you that they actually thought some of the looting was necessary. Explain that.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    Well, I don't know if they said it was necessary, but, rather, understandable.

    There's a great deal of sympathy that one hears for the pent-up frustration that's built, especially in minority communities, about relations with the police. And so there's sort of a reconciliation that this had to happen, although not everybody likes the way that it turned out.

    But they keep insisting that this is not representative of the larger protest that has happened in this community.

    I talked to Peter Olefaso, who is a basketball coach and school counselor, this morning as he was volunteering.

  • Peter Olefaso:

    I was around here last — well, yesterday. A friend of mine owns a shop around the corner.

    So, I was seeing all the devastation. And I just felt this was the best way that I can help. I mean, it's unfortunate seeing everything like this, but I feel it's something that has to happen.

    In a sense, people are frustrated. They feel voiceless. So — and I think, initially, the protests, there's about 95 percent that are doing it for the right reasons. And there's 5 percent that took the opportunity and looted some stores.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Fred, overall, how would you say people there are processing what's happened, the arrest today of one of the police officers and the heightened police presence?

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    There is a real hope here, a palpable hope, that that will help de-escalate tension.

    And just in case, Minneapolis has declared a curfew starting 8:00 p.m. tonight. We will see how this all turns out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fred de Sam Lazaro reporting for us from St. Paul, Minnesota.

    Fred, thank you so much.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    My pleasure, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We want to thank our colleagues at Minnesota Public Radio for their help in our reporting today.

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