Fires burn near White House as violent anti-racism protests continue

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Violent protests over killing of black man by white cop continue into sixth night

MINNEAPOLIS: Fires burned near the White House and stores were looted in New York City and Southern California as the US struggled to contain chaotic protests over race and policing.

National Guard troops were deployed in 15 states and Washington, DC, in an attempt to quell a sixth night of violence on Sunday. The unrest began with peaceful protests over the death of a black man, Mr George Floyd, in police custody.

"I hate to see my city like this but at the end we need justice," said 18-year-old Jahvon Craven as he stood on an overpass watching protesters below on Interstate 35 in downtown Minneapolis moments before an 8pm curfew went into effect.

Video footage showed a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of Mr Floyd, 46, for nearly nine minutes before he died on May 25.

His death caused outrage across a nation that is politically and racially divided during a polarising presidential campaign, reigniting protests that have flared repeatedly in recent years over police killings of black Americans.

Authorities imposed curfews on dozens of cities across the US, the most since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968 - also during an election campaign and in the upheaval of anti-war demonstrations.

President Donald Trump has condemned the killing of Mr Floyd and promised justice, but has also described the current protesters as "thugs".

"Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors," Mr Trump, a Republican, said on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

"These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW."

In Washington, DC, protesters set fires near the White House on Sunday. The smoke mixed with billowing clouds of tear gas as police sought to clear from the area crowds chanting "George Floyd".

In Santa Monica, California, upscale stores were looted along the city's popular Third Street Promenade before police moved in to make arrests. The vandalism followed a largely peaceful march.

The demonstrations brought out a diversity of people.

"It means a lot to see people other than black people joining the demonstration," said Ms Candace Collins, a young black woman at a march in Culver City, California.

Thousands of people gathered peacefully on Sunday afternoon for a rally in St. Paul, adjacent to Minneapolis, as state troopers surrounded the state capitol building. About 170 stores in the city have been looted, its mayor told CNN.

The protests have spread around the globe, with events in London and Berlin on Sunday and others yesterday, including in New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands.

The eruptions of violence have not let up despite the arrest on Friday of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, 44. He has since been charged with third-degree murder.

China said yesterday the unrest highlighted America's severe problems of racism and police violence, and exposed Washington's double standards in supporting Hong Kong's protesters.

"Black people's lives are also lives. Their human rights must also be guaranteed," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

"Racism against ethnic minorities in the US is a chronic disease of American society," Mr Zhao added. - REUTERS, AFP