Police precinct set ablaze as violent protests continue in Minneapolis

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(CBS News) – The front of a police precinct in Minneapolis was set ablaze by protesters on Thursday night as protests continued for their third consecutive day, CBS Minnesota reported. The protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer kept his knee on his neck, prompted Minnesota governor Tim Walz to activate the national guard earlier on Thursday. 

The fire forced the third precinct to evacuate. “In the interest of the safety of our personnel, the Minneapolis Police Department evacuated the 3rd Precinct of its staff,” Minneapolis police said in a statement. “Protesters forcibly entered the building and have ignited several fires.”

At the Target parking lot near the the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, a man was seen jumping up and down on the hood of a car that was set on fire around 7 p.m. local time as people threw glass bottles around him. By 10 p.m., there was a shooting a few blocks away, and the protests had spread onto Interstate 35W, according to CBS Minnesota. The MaX It PAWN shop near the 3rd Precinct was also set on fire. 

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the state’s National Guard on Thursday through an executive order “to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace.” Soon after the precinct caught fire, the Minnesota National Guard tweeted that it has activated more than 500 soldiers to St. Paul, Minneapolis, and surrounding communities.   

People started looting in St. Paul on Thursday afternoon and clashed with police soon thereafter, according to CBS Minnesota. Videos show that others gathered in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday evening to march down Marquette Avenue. Many chanted “George Floyd” throughout the march, and some participants handed out roses. A vigil for Floyd was also held in St. Louis Park this afternoon. 

The executive order calling the national guard to the city said that “Unfortunately, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity, including arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property. These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators and other Minnesotans, and both first responders and demonstrators have already been injured. Many businesses, including businesses owned by people of color, have suffered damage as a result of this unlawful activity.”

The order added that Minneapolis “has exhausted its resources,” and that the city has requested assistance to help protect “life, safety, and property.”

The executive order also activates the State Emergency Operations Center, according to CBS Minnesota

Before the protests started Thursday night, businesses prepared for another night of looting and violence. Many businesses, including post offices and the Mall of America, shut their doors, and Metro Transit suspended buses and light rail operation. 

Walz’s decision comes a day after protests became violent around the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct. What started as a peaceful demonstration turned into a dangerous confrontation with local police. After demonstrators gathered around the precinct, police in riot gear unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets. At least one person was shot and killed during during the confrontation. 

The chaos continued as protesters set several buildings on fire and looted businesses. Videos released on social media showed dozens of people swarming a nearby Target, nearly emptying its shelves. As a result, Target announced on Thursday that it is closing two dozen stores in Minnesota. 

“We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing our community. At this time, we have made the decision to close a number of our stores until further notice,” Target said in a press release. “Our focus will remain on our team members’ safety and helping our community heal.”

The city’s fire department responded to 30 intentionally set fires, according to CBS Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Department of Criminal Apprehension, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, and FBI are investigating Floyd’s death, and the four officers who arrested Floyd have been fired. 

The home of Derek Chauvin, the officer whose knee was on Floyd’s neck, has also been a site for ongoing protests. On Wednesday, six people were arrested outside his home for unlawful assembly, according to CBS Minnesota

Thousands of people throughout the rest of the country have also marched and protested this week in solidarity with Minneapolis. 

A protest with dozens of people turned violent in Union Square on Thursday, according to CBS New York. At least 40 people were arrested for various charges, including assaulting a police officer, criminal possession of a weapon, and civil disobedience. 

In Los Angeles, most of the protestors were peaceful on Thursday evening, CBS Los Angeles reported, although some could be heard shouting expletives at police.

In a video statement, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the police would do “everything possible” to maintain peaceful demonstrations throughout the night.  

“Street demonstrations are and should be occurring across this country and in this city to bring voices to injustices,” he said. “It is part of the very democracy of what makes this country great.”

The Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter also organized a march from the Santa Monica Police Department headquarters to Venice Beach, according to CBS Los Angeles. Earlier on Thursday, the group posted that those attending should wear black and orange and “come in peace.” 

“Bring masks, signs, a megaphone and anything else to raise the level of awareness,” the post read. “We raise awareness to and use love to drown the hate.” 

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