5 cops hurt as violent protests in US continue

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US President slammed for turning security forces on protesters for photo opp

WASHINGTON/MINNEAPOLIS : 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 said he would deploy the military if the unrest does not stop.

Mr Trump deepened outrage on Monday 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 from the White House Rose Garden, where he made the remarks.

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, Mr John Hayden, said about 200 protesters were "jumping up and down like crazy people", looting and throwing fireworks and rocks at officers.

"We had to protect our headquarters building, they were throwing fireworks on officers, fireworks were exploding on officers," he told reporters.

"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."

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.

It gave no details of the shootings or the officers' condition.

Mr Trump has condemned and has promised justice over the killing of Mr George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after he had his neck pinned under a white policeman's knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.

But with marches and rallies against police brutality having turned violent 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," Mr 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."


After his address, Mr Trump posed for pictures with his daughter, Ivanka, and US Attorney General William Barr at St John's Episcopal Church near the White House.

"We have a great country," Mr Trump declared as he stood before the church's boarded up windows, held up a Bible and posed for photographs.

The backlash was swift.

"He's using the American military against the American people," tweeted Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

"He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets. For a photo. For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him," he said.

Presiding bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church diocese in Washington DC said on Twitter: "In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes." - REUTERS, AFP