American cities are spending Monday morning digging out from scenes of destruction after demonstrations against the police-involved death of George Floyd gave way to a fifth straight night of looting and rioting, resulting in another wave of arrests.
As of Monday morning, at least 4,400 people have been taken into custody nationwide in relation to the chaos, according to an Associated Press tally. Meanwhile, countless more business owners whose livelihoods already have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are finding their stores damaged and ransacked.
“It's one of the most challenging times that I’ve seen in my 30 years of policing,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told "Fox & Friends" on Monday after a night of looting in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood left sidewalks outside high-end retail stores littered with debris and broken glass. “I can tell you that we had thousands of police officers deployed last night.”
“In terms of protest, in terms of balancing orderly protest, respecting people’s rights to peacefully assemble, that was going on all day, large crowds in Brooklyn, smaller crowds in Queens, significant crowds in Manhattan," Dermot continued. “But then it turned dark, it turned ugly and it turned that way fast.”
The New York Post reports that police arrested dozens of looters in the Big Apple overnight. A witness told the newspaper that some of them acted in an apparent system where suspects would break into stores before leaping into getaway vehicles outside.
Videos on social media showed crowds targeting a wide array of businesses throughout Manhattan, emerging from shattered storefronts with everything ranging from Chanel handbags to bicycles.
The ongoing demonstrations that have gripped the U.S. and the entire world were sparked by the death of Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee into his neck. That officer – Derek Chauvin – has been charged with third-degree murder and reportedly has been transferred to a maximum-security prison.
Floyd's death came after tensions had already flared after two white men were arrested in May for the February shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the Louisville police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her home in March.
Despite fresh concerns about the spread of coronavirus, Americans from all walks of life have come together en masse to demonstrate against the deaths and call for the reform of police departments and the criminal justice system. While many of the gatherings have been peaceful – including some that saw officers take a knee in solidarity with protesters – others have frequently turned violent, often when late afternoon gives way to nightfall.
A Sunday afternoon of mostly peaceful protests in Boston made a turn for a worse overnight when protesters clashed with officers, throwing rocks, breaking into several stores, and lighting a police vehicle on fire.
Boston police tweeted that at least 40 people had been arrested as of 3 a.m. Monday, adding that seven police officers had been hospitalized and 21 police cruisers were damaged.
In Portland, Oregon, police deployed tear gas to disperse a large crowd downtown late Sunday night after authorities said projectiles were thrown at officers.
Earlier, police said protesters smashed windows at the federal courthouse, and authorities on loudspeakers declared the gathering a civil disturbance.
A protest along the historic Route 66 into downtown Albuquerque also turned violent early Monday after police reported demonstrators setting small fires and officers said they were fired upon.
Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told the Associated Press that officers reported shots fired at them in front of the historic Kimo Theater after a mostly peaceful demonstration disbanded. Gallego said there was damage to several properties in the area, including broken windows and some stealing from stores – although there were no reports of injuries.
And in Texas, police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray late Sunday night at demonstrators who gathered outside the downtown police station in Austin. Some people – in television footage of the standoff -- could be seen throwing water bottles at police.
A little farther north in Dallas – one of the many U.S. cities to have instituted a curfew in hopes of quelling the unrest – police made dozens of arrests.
Some Americans have even tried to get in the way of the looters, with mixed results.
A man protecting a liquor store in Chicago Sunday night was hit in the right arm by gunfire and was rushed to a hospital, where he is now said to be in good condition, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
In Philadelphia, local residents from a group called “Stand Up Philly” banded together to deter looters from going after a Target store.
Anthony, one of its members, told Fox29 that the locals are against what happened to Floyd, calling it “disgusting” and vowing that “it has to stop.”
“But we have to unite the city and what is happening throughout the city right now is dividing the city, it is not uniting the city,” he said. “There is no justice in robbing stores and looting your own neighborhood and burning the city down.”
Even though an estimated 16,000 National Guard troops have been mobilized to quell the rioting and looting, it’s not clear when the violence will end.
But in the meantime, Shea is calling on all Americans to show restraint.
“I think people need to understand, when they see officers out there on the line as they’re doing now trying to keep peace, they’re doing the best they can in an extremely, extremely difficult situation,” he told ‘Fox & Friends’. “This goes across the country and they need your support.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.