In some cities, police forces tried to display solidarity with their communities. In Petersburg, Virginia, Chief Kenneth Miller and a handful of police officers appeared alongside protesters. And in Oklahoma City on Sunday, as a crowd of marchers seemed to grow tense, officers with the sheriff’s department’s tactical team took a knee in a pose popularized by the former N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The protesters cheered.
But for several days, violence spread in many cities after dark, leading many mayors to impose curfews. People have set fires outside the White House. Stores in New York City, Santa Monica, California, and other cities across the country have been broken into. And many areas have experienced widespread damage. Videos have shown police officers using batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders, and journalists, sometimes without warning or seemingly unprovoked.
The upheaval following Floyd’s death came as many Americans were already ragged with anger and anxiety. Emotions are raw over the toll of a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 people across the country and destroyed millions of jobs.
The outbreak has inflicted disproportionate economic and health tolls on racial minorities and immigrants. Black and Latino workers have been more likely to have lost their jobs. Many others are among the low-paid hourly workers who risk their health by going to work at grocery stores, nursing homes, factories, slaughterhouses, and other jobs that can't be done remotely. The nationwide protests have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the streets, and some public health experts fear that might lead to a new surge in Covid-19 cases. Many people think the economic pain and misery from the public health lockdowns have added to the volatile atmosphere.
“They’re restless,” Minnesota’s attorney general Keith Ellison says of the people protesting. “Some of them have been unemployed, some of them don’t have rent money, and they’re angry, they’re frustrated.”
President Trump has taken a hard line against the protesters, and lawmakers and officials from both parties have criticized his divisive tone. He endured particularly harsh criticism for using the military police to clear peaceful protesters who were gathered across from the White House.
But other politicians have tried to call for calm and seize the moment to inspire positive change.
“I don’t think we get another chance to fix this in the country, I really don’t,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said Wednesday. “I don’t think that's hyperbole. I think being at the heart of this and seeing the community’s pain so viscerally, this is . . . this is going to have to be that change we look for.”