Elected and community leaders alike have condemned the violent riots that broke out across the nation following the death of George Floyd, with fears of further violence over the weekend.
Demonstrations in several cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Denver and Portland, started peacefully on Friday, but turned violent at night as police and protesters clashed. The riots led to the destruction of police and private property, with businesses looted by protesters.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave an emotional speech on Saturday morning, citing the actions of looters who smashed windows and threw bottles, rocks and knives at law enforcement as “not a protest” and “not Atlanta.”
“You’re not honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement,” Bottoms said. “When you burn down this city, you’re burning down our community.”
“You are disgracing this city, you are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country,” she added. “We are better than this. We’re better than this as a city, we are better than this as a country.”
Dr. Bernice King, daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., appealed to the protesters saying the “only way to achieve constructive change is through non-violent means.”
“The changes have to happen. We can’t go back to yesterday,” Dr. King said. “We can’t be doing things as we’ve been doing it.”
“The only pathway I know how to do this, is through non-violent means. It is a proven method … When you really understand it and really practice it, it brings about the results.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency ahead of fears that further protests might break out. Leaders in Minneapolis, Denver, and Portland have gone so far as to institute a mandatory curfew, though Minneapolis protesters ignored the curfew as a third night of violent protests gripped the city.
Gov. Tom Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey have also spoken out about the riots, saying that they no longer have anything to do with George Floyd’s death.
Both leaders have implied that organized outsiders, including but not limited to anarchists, white supremacists, and gangs from other states, were behind the destruction and chaos in Minneapolis.
"This is no longer about protesting," Frey said. "This is about violence and we need to make sure that it stops."
In New York City, over 200 arrests were made as protesters clashed with police in Brooklyn. The rioting escalated to the point at which protesters overran the 88th precinct, forcing the police to put out a call for help from all other stations.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson lay the blame with the NYPD, insisting that it was a “failure of leadership” to not de-escalate the situation. While a protest outside city hall had been peaceful, the Brooklyn protest boiled over into a riot, though police had already been waiting in riot gear before any protesters arrived.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, joined the calls against the protesters, saying, “Any protester that tries to take the humanity away from a police officer and devalue them just because they are a public servant is no better than the racists who devalue people of color and particularly black men in America."
Protests in over 37 cities are planned for Saturday, with many fearing that further rioting is inevitable.