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Minneapolis braces for more violence over death in custody

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called in the National Guard as a wounded Minneapolis braced for more violence Thursday, one day after rioting over the death of a handcuffed black man in police custody reduced parts of one neighborhood to a smoking shambles, with burned buildings, looted stores and angry graffiti demanding justice.

The unrest ravaged several blocks in the Longfellow neighborhood, with scattered rioting reaching for miles across the city. It was the second consecutive night of violent protests following the death of George Floyd, who gasped for breath during a Monday arrest in which an officer kneeled on his neck for almost eight minutes. In footage recorded by a bystander, Floyd can be heard pleading that he can’t breathe until he slowly stops talking and moving.

Another protest was announced for Thursday evening near county offices downtown. Some stores in Minneapolis and the suburbs planned to close early, fearing more strife. The city shut down its light-rail system and planned to stop all bus service “out of concern for the safety of riders and employees,” a statement said.

Around midday Thursday, the violence spread to a Target store several miles away in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, where police said 50 to 60 people rushed the store and attempted to take merchandise. St. Paul police and state patrol squad cars later blocked the entrance, but looting then spread to shops along nearby University Avenue, one of St. Paul’s main commercial corridors, and other spots in the city.

St. Paul spokesman Steve Linders said authorities have
been dealing with unrest in roughly 20 different areas throughout the

“Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest.
Please keep the focus on George Floyd, on advancing our movement, and on
preventing this from ever happening again. We can all be in that fight
together,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter tweeted.

Walz called for widespread changes in the wake of Floyd’s death.

is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system, and
rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they’re
charged to protect. George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and
systemic change, not more death and destruction,” Walz said.

Thursday morning in Minneapolis, smoke rose from smoldering buildings in
the Longfellow neighborhood, scene of the worst violence. In a strip
mall across the street from the police’s 3rd Precinct station, the focus
of the previous night’s protests, the windows in nearly every business
had been smashed, from the large Target department store at one end to
the Planet Fitness gym at the other. Only the 24-hour laundromat
appeared to have escaped unscathed.

“WHY US?” demanded a large
expanse of red graffiti scrawled on the wall of the Target. A Wendy’s
restaurant across the street was charred almost beyond recognition.

burning our own neighborhood,” said a distraught Deona Brown, a
24-year-old woman standing with a friend outside the precinct station,
where a small group of protesters were shouting at a dozen or so
stone-faced police officers in riot gear. “This is where we live, where
we shop, and they destroyed it.”

“What that cop did was wrong, but I’m scared now,” Brown said.

But others in the crowd saw something different in the wreckage.

destroyed property “because the system is broken,” said a young man who
identified himself only by his nickname, Cash, and who said he had been
in the streets during the violence. He dismissed the idea that the
destruction would hurt residents of the largely black neighborhood.

making money off of us,” he said angrily of the owners of the destroyed
stores. He laughed when asked if he had joined in the looting or
violence: “I didn’t break anything.”

The protests that began
Wednesday night and extended into Thursday were more violent than
Tuesday’s, which included skirmishes between offices and protesters but
no widespread property damage or looting.

Mayor Jacob Frey appealed for calm. “Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” he said on Twitter.

Protests also spread to other U.S. cities. In California, hundreds of people protesting Floyd’s death
blocked a Los Angeles freeway and shattered windows of California
Highway Patrol cruisers. Memphis police blocked a main thoroughfare
after a racially mixed group of protesters gathered outside a police
precinct. The situation intensified later in the night, with police
donning riot gear and protesters standing shoulder-to-shoulder in front
of officers stationed behind a barricade.

Amid the violence in
Minneapolis, a man was found fatally shot Wednesday night near a pawn
shop, possibly by the owner, authorities said.

Fire crews
responded to about 30 intentionally set blazes during the protests,
including at least 16 structure fires, and multiple fire trucks were
damaged by rocks and other projectiles, the fire department said. No one
was hurt by the blazes.

There was no sign of police at the
destroyed shopping center, though a couple dozen were outside the
precinct house. One man standing outside the building was using a
bullhorn to shout. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. Mama, I can’t
breathe,” repeating some of Floyd’s pleas for relief.

Across from the precinct, someone had spray-painted the sidewalk in red: “Where’s humanity?”

The 46-year-old Floyd died
as police arrested him outside a convenience store after a report of a
counterfeit bill being passed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in
Minneapolis said Thursday they were conducting “a robust criminal
investigation” into the death and making the case a priority. The
announcement came a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that he had
asked an investigation to be expedited.

The FBI is also investigating, with a probe focused on whether Floyd’s civil rights were violated.

officer who kneeled on Floyd and three others were fired Tuesday. The
next day, the mayor called for him to be criminally charged.

appealed to Gov. Tim Walz to activate the National Guard, a spokesman
confirmed Thursday. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to
a request for comment. Walz tweeted for calm Wednesday night, calling the violence “an extremely dangerous situation” and urging people to leave the scene.

last time the Minnesota National Guard was called out to deal with
civil unrest was in a backup role during the 2008 Republican National
Convention in St. Paul. The most comparable situation to the current
disturbances happened when the Guard was called up to deal with the
riots in Minneapolis in 1967, a summer when anger over racial
inequalities came to a boil in many cities across the country.

The Minnesota National Guard was also called out during protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s and during a 1986 strike by Hormel meatpackers in Austin.

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.