Peaceful rallies gave way to a night of arson, looting and vandalism in cities across the US, as protesters vented their rage over the death of a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck.
The spasm of unrest has spread from the Minnesota city of Minneapolis – where Monday night’s fatal arrest of 46-year-old George Floyd took place – to New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Columbus and nearby St. Paul.
Thursday evening saw some striking images from Minneapolis itself, where police were forced to abandon the 3rd precinct police station after rioters broke through a cordon and set the entrance on fire. Local businesses were looted and some were set ablaze.
Photos and video showed the protesters entering the police building, where fire alarms blared and sprinklers ran as blazes were set. Protesters could be seen setting fire to a Minneapolis Police Department jacket and cheering.
At one point, a band playing in a parking lot across from the 3rd Precinct broke into a punk version of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. Nearby, demonstrators carried clothing mannequins from a looted Target store and threw them onto a burning car.
There were similar scenes in Columbus, Ohio, where protesters demonstrated in the downtown area near the statehouse in solidarity with protests over the killing of Mr Floyd.
Yet the initially peaceful demonstration turned into a riot after clashes between police and protesters. Looters smashed windows in nearby buildings, including the statehouse and local shops. Police were also seen using pepper spray in an attempt to break up the crowds.
There were also protests from Minneapolis’s so-called twin city, St. Paul, east of the Mississippi River. Television footage showed several buildings on fire in the southeast of the city centre.
The Minnesota National Guard said it had “activated” more than 500 soldiers to assist local authorities, and mainly the fire departments, in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding areas.
Protesters also clashed with police in Denver, Colorado – where there were reports of shots being fired during the demonstrations. Witnesses claim six or seven shots were fired in the downtown area near the state Capitol, but Denver police said there are no reports of any injuries.
In New York City, there were 40 people arrested at a protest in Union Square. The NYPD said one demonstrator was carrying a knife and one punched an officer in the face. Several protesters seen pinned to the ground by officers.
In Los Angeles, a crowd gathered to protest outside LAPD headquarters on Thursday. Some of the demonstrators were seen briefly surrounded a police car, and at least one activist reportedly kicked the vehicle before it left the scene.
Donald Trump has lashed out at those protesting in Minneapolis, calling those involved in a third night of street clashes “thugs”.
The president said on Twitter said that he would send the National Guard troops to “get the job done right” if mayor Jacob Frey failed to bring the city under control, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo has publicly apologised to Mr Floyd's family, while Minnesota’s US attorney, Erica McDonald, pledged a “robust and meticulous investigation” of his arrest and death.
Additional reporting by agencies