Residents in major cities wake up to neighbourhoods in shambles, while President Trump slams governors for not being tough on demonstrators amid possibility of fresh protests.

Workers board up windows of a Nespresso store, Monday, June 1, 2020, in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York.
Workers board up windows of a Nespresso store, Monday, June 1, 2020, in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York. (AP)

A country convulsed by violent protests picked up the pieces on Monday morning and braced for the possibility of more trouble amid a coast-to-coast outpouring of rage over police killings of black people.

Continuing with his stance, President Donald Trump demanded the nation's governors crack down harder on the violence, telling them, "Most of you are weak."

After six straight days of unrest, a new routine was developing: residents waking up to neighbourhoods in shambles, shopkeepers taking stock of ransacked stores, and police and political leaders weighing how to address the boiling anger.

While many of the demonstrations around the country have been peaceful protests by racially diverse crowds, others have descended into violence, despite curfews in big cities across the US and the deployment of thousands of National Guard soldiers over the past week.

On Sunday, protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police in Philadelphia, set a fire near the White House and were hit with tear gas and pepper spray in Austin, Texas, and other cities. Seven Boston police officers were hospitalized.

Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Kentucky, killed a man early Monday when they returned fire after someone in a large group shot at them first, police said. In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence over the weekend, adding to deaths recorded in Detroit and Minneapolis.

In some cities, thieves smashed their way into stores and ran off with as much as they could carry, leaving shop owners, many of them just beginning to reopen their businesses after the coronavirus shutdowns, to clean up their shattered stores.

Police in solidarity with protesters 

In other places, police tried to calm tensions by kneeling in solidarity with demonstrators.

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for several minutes.

Racial tensions were also running high after two white men were arrested in May in the February shooting death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and after Louisville, Kentucky, police shot Breonna Taylor to death in her home in March.

The upheaval has unfolded amid the gloom and economic ruin caused by the coronavirus, which has killed over 100,000 Americans and sent unemployment soaring to levels not seen since the Depression. 

The outbreak has hit minorities especially hard, not just in infections and deaths but in job losses and economic stress.

The scale of the coast-to-coast protests has rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. 

At least 4,400 people have been arrested for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew.

'They keep killing our people'

"They keep killing our people. I'm so sick and tired of it,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who was at a Boston protest with her mother on Sunday, leading chants of “George Floyd, say his name!"

At the White House, the scene of three days of demonstrations, police fired tear gas and stun grenades on Sunday into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park.

The crowd ran, piling up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a street nearby. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the flames. A building in the park with bathrooms and a maintenance office was burned down.

The district's entire National Guard — roughly 1,700 soldiers — was called in to help control the protests, according to Pentagon officials.

As the unrest grew, President Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton, who called for "overwhelming force" against violent demonstrators.

Trump maintains hardline stance

Trump again took a hardline stance on Monday when he derided many governors as "weak" and demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing among some demonstrations in the aftermath of another night of violent protests in dozens of American cities.

Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they "have to get much tougher."

"Most of you are weak," Trump said. "You have to arrest people."

The president urged the governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. 

He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced a spasm of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

"You've got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you'll never see this stuff again," said Trump. 

"We're doing it in Washington, DC. We're going to do something that people haven't seen before."

The president told the governors they were making themselves "look like fools" for not calling up more of the National Guard as a show of force on city streets.

Source: AP