Smoke and orange flames filled the night sky Thursday as protesters breached the 3rd Police Precinct in Minneapolis and set it ablaze. Others tossed fireworks toward the precinct, which is closest to where Floyd was captured on video with an officer kneeling on his neck before he died.
City officials warned protesters to leave the precinct area, saying it may be in danger of exploding due to “unconfirmed reports” of explosive materials in the building.
“If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes,” a tweet on the city’s account said.
The Minneapolis Police Department said it had evacuated staff from the precinct for safety reasons. Authorities had set up a fence around it, but protesters pushed it over, officials said.
The Fire Department is working with the police and other authorities to assess the situation, Fire Chief John Fruetel told CNN.
Outrage grows to other cities
Outrage grew after a video surfaced showing a Minneapolis officer kneeling on his neck during the arrest. Floyd was unarmed and handcuffed, and cried that he couldn’t breathe before he later died.
The four officers involved in the arrest have been fired but not charged, angering protesters. They gathered in several other cities — New York, Denver, Phoenix, Memphis and Columbus, Ohio — to demand their prosecution.
In nearby Saint Paul, authorities said there were no reports of injuries from the protests but more than 170 businesses were damaged or looted.
Saint Paul’s mayor said the protesters’ anger was understandable, calling the video of Floyd’s death “nauseating.”
“It’s heartbreaking for everybody I know … everybody I know looks at that video and feels like crying or throwing up, and it’s disgusting, it’s unacceptable,” Mayor Melvin Carter said.
He acknowledged that the community was unhappy with the rioting and looting, but said there was a broader root problem that needed addressing.
“In order to get to the bottom of this, we have to understand where the rage is coming from in the first place,” he said. “As we all know, we’ve seen video after video … we’ve seen that the people responsible go free. And it seems no one gets held accountable.”
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock pleaded with people to demonstrate peacefully.
“You can be angry. You can be outraged. I certainly am and I join you in those feelings and demands of #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd,” he tweeted. “March for justice and to see it served, but please march in peace. Responding to violence with violence will only lead to more violence.”
The Minneapolis mayor criticized any violent incidents.
“What we’ve seen over the past several hours and the past couple of nights in terms of looting is unacceptable,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters. “Our communities cannot and will not tolerate it.”
In New York City, police arrested more than 40 people during the protests Thursday.
Charges range from obstruction of governmental administration to criminal possession of a weapon after a woman pulled a switchblade at Union Square, a law enforcement official said.
Police chief apologizes
Local and federal officials have not announced any charges against the officers. But they said Thursday that the investigation is a top priority.
“We need to wade through all of that evidence and come to a meaningful decision and we are doing that to the best of our ability,” Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said.
“We are going to investigate it as expeditiously, as thoroughly as justice demands,” he added. “That video is graphic, horrific and terrible. And no person should do that. I am pleading with individuals to remain calm and let us conduct this investigation.”
All four officers involved in the death have invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, Freeman said.
The House Judiciary Committee urged the Justice Department to investigate, saying the federal government has a critical role to play in ensuring accountability for law enforcement organizations.
The officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs. It’s unclear what the internal affairs complaints against Derek Chauvin were for. Officials did not provide additional details.
But Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo apologized, saying he understands the role his department has played in the chaos.
“I am absolutely sorry for the pain, devastation and trauma Mr. Floyd’s death has left on his family, his loved ones, Minneapolis and the world,” Arradondo said.
“I know there is currently a deficit of hope in our city … and I know our department has contributed to that deficit as a whole.”
The victim’s brother, Philonise Floyd, asked people to remain calm despite their pain and anger.
In a late night tweet, President Donald Trump described the Minneapolis protesters as “thugs,” and threatened to send the National Guard, saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter flagged his tweet for “glorifying” violence.
CNN’s Sara Sidner reported from Minneapolis and Faith Karimi wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Joe Sutton and Steve Almasy contributed to this report