Curfews in major US cities as protest violence escalates

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Minneapolis gripped by a 5th night of violence as protesters vent fury at death of a black man during police arrest

MINNEAPOLIS: Curfews were imposed in major US cities on Saturday as clashes over police brutality escalated across America with demonstrators ignoring warnings from President Donald Trump that his government would stop the violent protests "cold".

Minneapolis, the epicentre of the unrest, was gripped by a fifth consecutive night of violence with the police in riot gear firing tear gas and stun grenades at protesters venting fury at the death of a black man during an arrest in the city last Monday.

Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta were among two dozen cities ordering people to stay indoors overnight as more states called in National Guard soldiers to help control civil unrest not seen in the US for years.

From Seattle to New York, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets demanding tougher murder charges and more arrests over the death of Mr George Floyd, who stopped breathing after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In Los Angeles, officers fired rubber bullets and swung batons during a testy stand-off with demonstrators who set fire to a police car. Police and protesters clashed in numerous cities including Chicago and New York, with officers responding to projectiles with pepper spray, and shop windows were smashed in Philadelphia.

Mr Trump blamed the extreme left for the violence, including widespread looting and arson in Minneapolis, saying rioters were dishonouring the memory of Mr Floyd.

"We must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities," the president said. "My administration will stop mob violence. And we'll stop it cold," he added, accusing the loose-knit militant anti-fascist network Antifa of orchestrating the violence.

Mr Trump said on Saturday that if protesters, who gathered the night before across from the White House, had breached the fence, "they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen".

Minnesota Governor Tim Walzs said he was mobilising the state's entire 13,000-strong National Guard to deal with rioters who have looted shops and set fires in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. All major freeways leading into Minneapolis were shut down on Saturday night with military helicopters taking to the skies over the area as the state braced for more rioting, arson and looting.

Texas, Colorado and Georgia became the latest states to activate the National Guard, bringing the number of states approving the deployment of the soldiers to at least eight.

In New York City, video footage showed a police car driving into a crowd of protesters.

"They could've killed them, & we don't know how many they injured," US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter, demanding the officers be brought to justice.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested protesters were to blame. - AFP, REUTERS