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Police precinct torched as protests continue in Minneapolis over George Floyd's death

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A police precinct house in Minneapolis was set ablaze by demonstrators Thursday night as protests continued for the third consecutive day, CBS Minnesota reported. The protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd, prompted Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to activate the National Guard earlier on Thursday. 

Floyd died after a police officer kept his knee on his neck, despite video evidence showing he repeatedly told police he couldn't breathe. 

APTOPIX Minneapolis Police Death
A protester gestures in front of the burning 3rd Precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department on night of May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. Julio Cortez / AP

The fire forced the evacuation of the precinct building. "In the interest of the safety of our personnel, the Minneapolis Police Department evacuated the Third Precinct of its staff," Minneapolis police said in a statement. "Protesters forcibly entered the building and have ignited several fires."

The city warned people near the precinct to leave the area after receiving unconfirmed reports that gas lines to the precinct have been cut and that there are explosives in the building. 

In an overnight briefing Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters he was the one who ordered that the building be evacuated, when it became clear "there were imminent threats both to officers and public." 

"The symbolism of a building cannot outweighs the importance of life of our officers or the public. We could not risk serious injury to anyone, and we will continue to patrol the third precinct entirely," he said. "We will continue to do our jobs in that area." 

He also responded to President Trump's late-night tweet on the protests. Mr. Trump said there is "a total lack of leadership" in the city. 

"Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right," Mr. Trump tweeted, even though the National Guard had already been called in.

During his briefing, Frey reacted by saying, "Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you'd better be damned sure that we're gonna get through this." 

Friday morning, CNN became part of the story:  

Governor Walz later apologized to the network about the arrests and those arrested were released, CNN said. The reasons for the arrests weren't immediately clear.

Looting attempts were reported at malls throughout the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, CBS Minnesota reported. 

At the Target parking lot near the Third Precinct building, a man was seen jumping up and down on the hood of a car that was set on fire around 7 p.m. local time as people threw glass bottles around him. By 10 p.m., there was a shooting a few blocks away, and the protests had spread onto Interstate 35W, according to CBS Minnesota. The MaX It PAWN shop near the Third Precinct was also set on fire. 

Saint Paul Police reported that more than 170 businesses were damaged or looted Thursday night and that there were dozens of fires. There were no reports of serious injuries, they said.

Walz activated the state's National Guard on Thursday through an executive order "to help protect Minnesotans' safety and maintain peace." After the precinct caught fire, the Minnesota National Guard tweeted that it has activated more than 500 soldiers to St. Paul, Minneapolis, and surrounding communities. Approximately 200 state patrol troopers were also deployed

People started looting in St. Paul on Thursday afternoon and clashed with police soon thereafter, according to CBS Minnesota. Videos show that others gathered in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday evening to march down Marquette Avenue. Many chanted "George Floyd" throughout the march, and some participants handed out roses. A vigil for Floyd was also held in St. Louis Park this afternoon. 

The executive order calling the national guard to the city said that Minneapolis "has exhausted its resources and that the city has requested assistance to help protect "life, safety, and property." The executive order also activates the State Emergency Operations Center, according to CBS Minnesota.

Before the protests started Thursday night, businesses prepared for another night of looting and violence. Many businesses, including post offices and the Mall of America, shut their doors. Metro Transit suspended buses and light rail operation through the weekend.

Walz's decision comes a day after protests became violent around the Third Precinct headquarters. What started as a peaceful demonstration turned into a dangerous confrontation with local police. After demonstrators gathered around the precinct, police in riot gear unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets. At least one person was shot and killed during the confrontation. 

The chaos continued as protesters set several buildings on fire and looted businesses. Videos released on social media showed dozens of people swarming a nearby Target, nearly emptying its shelves. Target announced on Thursday that it is temporarily closing two dozen stores in Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Department of Criminal Apprehension, Hennepin County Attorney's Office, and FBI are investigating Floyd's death, and the four officers who arrested Floyd have been fired. 

The home of Derek Chauvin, the officer whose knee was on Floyd's neck, has also been a site for ongoing protests. On Wednesday, six people were arrested outside his home for unlawful assembly, according to CBS Minnesota

Thousands of people throughout the rest of the country have also marched and protested this week in solidarity with Minneapolis. 

A protest with dozens of people turned violent in Union Square on Thursday, according to CBS New York. At least 40 people were arrested for various charges, including assaulting a police officer, criminal possession of a weapon, and civil disobedience. 

In Los Angeles, most of the protestors were peaceful on Thursday evening, CBS Los Angeles reported, although some could be heard shouting expletives at police.

The Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter also organized a march from the Santa Monica Police Department headquarters to Venice Beach, according to CBS Los Angeles. Earlier on Thursday, the group posted that those attending should wear black and orange and "come in peace." 

Denver quickly erupted into chaos on Thursday night when there were reports of shots fired near the capitol. Witnesses said there were six or seven shots fired after most demonstrators started towards downtown Denver, according to CBS Denver. Denver police said there are no reports of injuries. 

Throughout the more than four-hour protest, demonstrators blocked traffic downtown and on I-25. They also broke the windows of patrol cruisers at the capitol. 

Unverified video emerged on Twitter of a motorist apparently attempting to run over a demonstrator. 

Colorado Governor Jared Polis commented on the incident, saying, "While we are still uncovering all of the facts, a protest regarding the killing of George Floyd devolved into vandalism and violence, and I was absolutely shocked by video evidence of a motorist attempting to run over a protestor."

"These are extremely difficult times for our state, country, and world. Now more than ever we need to lift each other up and do right by each other," he continued. "I ask everyone to make their voice heard peacefully and to turn their anger into advocacy and action -- never violence."

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