At least five US police officers were hit by gunfire during violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody, police and media said, hours after President Donald Trump vowed to use the military to halt the unrest.
Trump deepened outrage on Monday (Jun 1) by posing at a church clutching a bible after law enforcement officers used teargas and rubber bullets to clear the way for him to walk there after he made his remarks in the White House Rose Garden.
The US Secret Service, charged with protecting the president, on Tuesday closed down until further notice the streets around the White House, media reports said.
Demonstrators set fire to a strip mall in Los Angeles, looted stores in New York City and clashed with police in St Louis, Missouri, where four officers were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
An emotional St Louis police commissioner, John Hayden, said about 200 protesters were looting and hurling fireworks and rocks at officers.
“They had officers with gas poured on them. What is going on? How can this be? Mr Floyd was killed somewhere else and they are tearing up cities all across the country,” he told reporters.
A police officer was also shot during protests in the Las Vegas Strip area, AP news agency said, quoting police. Another officer was “involved in a shooting” in the same area, the agency said without giving details.
It did not give details of the shootings or the officers’ condition. Police declined to comment to Reuters.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said in a tweet his office had been notified of two separate incidents in Las Vegas. “The State is in contact with local law enforcement and continues to monitor the situation,” he said.
Trump has condemned the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after a white policeman pinned his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25, and has promised justice.
But, with anti-police brutality marches and rallies having turned violent after dark each day in the past week, he said rightful protests could not be drowned out by an “angry mob”.
“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Trump said. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Floyd’s death has reignited simmering racial tensions in a politically divided country that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with African Americans accounting for a disproportionately high number of cases.