SEATTLE: US police used flashbang grenades, pepper spray and tear gas as protesters marched in cities across the country amid a wave of public anger over Donald Trump’s planned “surge” of federal agents into major metropolises, reports AFP.
The demonstrations against racism and police brutality—sparked by the death in Minneapolis of unarmed African-American George Floyd—come as the US president faces an increasingly tough battle for re-election, and is campaigning heavily on a platform of “law and order”.Protesters marched in Austin, Texas, as well as Louisville in Kentucky, New York, Omaha, California’s Oakland and Los Angeles, and Richmond in Virginia—where riot police fired chemical agents at a Black Lives Matter march, according to US media.
In Seattle the sounds of repeated small detonations rang out in some streets, and smoke rose from an area where demonstrators had set fire to trailers by a construction site for a youth detention facility, an AFP reporter observed.
Protestors slashed car tires and smashed trailer windows.
Police in riot gear faced off against the protestors, some holding umbrellas against falling pellets of pepper spray.
Late Saturday, Seattle Police said 45 people were arrested in connection with the demonstrations, which they designated a riot, according to the force’s official Twitter account.
Police Chief Carmen Best implored people to “come in peace to the city,” and castigated the demonstrations.“The rioters had no regard for the community’s safety, for officers’ safety or for the businesses and property that they destroyed,” local media reported her as saying.
The latest violence came after police and federal agents fired tear gas and forcefully dispersed protestors further south in Portland early Saturday, also in anger over Trump’s heavily-criticized surge of security forces.
The city, the biggest in the state of Oregon, has seen nightly protests against racism and police brutality for nearly two months, initially sparked by Floyd’s death.
Portland is also a stage for the highly controversial crackdown by federal agents ordered by Trump—one that is not supported by local officials, and which many say smacks of authoritarianism.
Saturday’s demonstration began peacefully, with crowds playing music and dancing, blowing soap bubbles and attaching red roses to the barricades.
But it ended—like many before it—with tear gas fired after protestors attached ropes to barricades surrounding the city’s courthouse in an attempt to pull them down. Portland police declared the area a riot, ordering protestors to leave, before they were joined by federal officers to clear the area.
An AFP reporter saw at least two men being detained and escorted from the scene by federal officers.