Curfews not enough to keep peace as tension builds coast to coast

As evening fell across the nation Monday, officials in cities coast to coast were hoping curfews would prevent another night of violent, chaotic demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd.

But there were early signs that the citywide orders were not enough to keep the peace between protesters and police in some places.

In Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a rare curfew after several nights of looting and vandalism, police fired tear gas outside the White House to move demonstrators away as President Donald Trump announced he would deploy U.S. military troops across the country if states could not contain the unrest on their own.

Image: US-POLITICS-RACE-UNREST (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images)
Image: US-POLITICS-RACE-UNREST (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images)

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In Philadelphia, a curfew that began at 6 p.m. did not stop a group of protesters from marching to City Hall, NBC Philadelphia reported. Hours earlier, a larger crowd elsewhere in the city shut down traffic, and police officers and state troopers used tear gas and pepper spray to scatter the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, in the nation's most populous city, New York City, a curfew was slated to begin at 11 p.m. Monday night and run through 5 a.m. Tuesday after the arrests of hundreds of protesters, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's daughter, during four days of protests against police brutality that included setting fire to New York Police Department cruisers.

"The men and women of this Police Department will be consistent, they will be out there again ensuring the rights of people to peacefully assemble," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday ahead of anticipated protests. "We ask all New Yorkers to participate and do it safely."

Looting and small fires were reported in Manhattan's Union Square and beyond. Hours before Monday's curfew began, de Blasio announced that another curfew would begin even earlier Tuesday evening, at 8 p.m. — although he said it was to control the small percentage of demonstrators who had gotten out of hand.

"Overwhelmingly, the city right now has been peaceful," de Blasio told local news station NY1.

The curfews, which have been imposed from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, come in response to the in-custody death of Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, on Memorial Day.

Floyd, 46, was killed after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, crushed him to the ground with a knee to Floyd's neck. The death ignited widespread protests against racism and mistreatment by police after Floyd's final helpless moments were caught on video.

The uprisings come at a time when public safety resources are already stretched as cities fight the coronavirus pandemic, with many still attempting to enforce stay-at-home orders.

In Minneapolis, where police had clashed with demonstrators and journalists covering the riots in dramatic fashion over the last several days, a calm appeared to set in across the city on Monday evening, with hundreds of people gathered at a memorial for Floyd at the site where he was killed. A citywide curfew was set to start at 10 p.m. local time.

Across the country in Sacramento, California, about 130 businesses had their windows and doors damaged and 300 buildings had graffiti on them as of Monday morning, according to the Sacramento Bee.

City officials, anticipating more problems Monday evening, announced a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time and said the city was deploying 500 members of National Guard Monday night to protect critical infrastructure.

The growing number of curfews came as Minnesota authorities announced Monday afternoon that Floyd's death was officially ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.