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Protests erupt across US over persisting police killings of minority youths

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Riot police stand guard during protests in Portland, Oregon, on April 16, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Protest marches and rallies have been waged across the US following a grim week of continued deadly police violence against unarmed African American and Hispanic youths with some demonstrations turning violent.

Thousands of people took part in protest activities -- staged Friday and some continuing into early Saturday morning – reported in a number of major US cities, including Oakland, Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington DC, which came in the wake of police killings of 20-year-old African American Daunte Wright in Minneapolis and 13-year-old Hispanic child Adam Toledo in Chicago.

Protesters in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center took part in the sixth straight night of rallies outside police headquarters with smaller demonstrations taking place in downtown Minneapolis.

Police officials had initially declined to declare an evening curfew, after quieter protests on the previous two nights, but following renewed clashes between protesters and police in Brooklyn Center -- during which local authorities claimed a fence around the heavily fortified police headquarters was breached -- an unlawful assembly was declared, resulting in the arrest of at least 100 protesters.

The Friday protest rally came as a US district judge ruled earlier in the evening that Minnesota state patrol could not arrest, threaten or target journalists following a complaint by the local ACLU rights group that law enforcement was unfairly cracking down on working reporters.

Despite the ruling, however, a number of reporters documented being detained by police later on Friday night but released only after being photographed by officers with their press identification badges.

In Chicago, where the Hispanic child was killed by police, thousands marched in Logan Square neighborhood after the video of Adam being shot while holding his hands up was released this week.

The protest rally was largely peaceful, though some police and protesters scuffled as the night drew to a close.

Meanwhile, another protest rally against police brutality that began peacefully in Oakland, California on Friday night, ended with multiple fires set, several cars damaged and numerous windows shattered, according to local press reports.

People in the crowd threw bottles and other objects at officers during the protest march, the reports said, citing a statement issued by Oakland police.

Later in the night authorities declared an unlawful assembly and ordered protesters to leave, the police statement added, noting that the demonstrators dispersed peacefully with no arrests or citations issued.

Also in Portland, Oregon, police authorities declared a riot Friday night following a protest march that was staged after police fatally shot a local man while responding to reports of a person with a gun.

Some witnesses said the man was mentally ill, but Portland’s new street response team – created after last year’s protests to respond to mental crises without armed police – was not called.

The city’s Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis announced earlier in the day that a white man in his 30s was shot and killed by police officer Zachary Delong. The man was pronounced dead at the scene in a residential neighborhood of the city.

Two officers fired a 40mm device that shoots non-lethal projectiles, and DeLong – an eight-year veteran – fired a gun, police authorities added in a statement.

DeLong, a combat veteran, had previously been celebrated by the Portland Police Bureau after he appeared in a 2016 History Channel documentary boasting about his military combat role in Afghanistan as a US Army ranger in 2010.

As investigators swept the scene for evidence, a crowd of more than 150 people – many dressed in all black and some carrying helmets, goggles and gas masks – reportedly gathered behind the crime scene tape, chanting and yelling at the officers standing in front of them.

As police began to leave the scene around 3 pm, the crowd marched through the park, ripped down police tape and stood face to face with officers dressed in riot gear, according to local news outlets. The crowd then remained in the area and eventually stood in a nearby intersection, blocking traffic and chanting.

Police stated later on Friday that they had used pepper spray against protesters in order to disperse them, claiming that some people struck officers with sticks and chased them as they were leaving. The police statement further added that officers also deployed smoke canisters and then used a rubber ball distraction device against the demonstrators.

The Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, has decried what he described as a segment of violent agitators who detract from the message of police accountability and should be subject to more severe punishment.

“We’ve had to summon just about every police officer in Multnomah county to keep this group far enough away to preserve what we refer to in our business as the integrity of the scene, so that nobody who shouldn’t be in there goes in there,” Davis said, adding that deputies with county sheriff’s office were also helping.

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