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Protesters, police clash in latest outcry over US feds

By AFP - Jul 26,2020 - Last updated at Jul 26,2020

SEATTLE — Protesters took to streets across the United States overnight into early Sunday, sparking clashes with police and a fatal shooting in Texas, amid a wave of public anger over Donald Trump's planned "surge" of federal agents into main cities.

The demonstrations against racism and police brutality — ignited two months ago by the death in Minneapolis of unarmed African-American George Floyd — come as the US president faces an increasingly tough battle for reelection, and is campaigning on a "law and order" platform.

He has met stiff resistance from big city mayors, like Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, many of them Democrats who accuse Trump of magnifying the problem for political gain.

"I have drawn a very hard line. We'll not allow federal troops in our city," Lightfoot said on CNN's "State of the Union".

"We will not tolerate unnamed agents taking people off the street, violating their rights and holding them in custody."

Protesters marched in Austin, Texas, as well as Louisville, Kentucky; New York; Omaha, Nebraska; California's Oakland and Los Angeles, and Richmond in Virginia.

In Austin, a man was killed in a shooting that broke out Saturday night at a protest in the downtown area of the Texas state capital, police said.

A witness, Michael Capochiano, told the Austin Statesman newspaper that the incident occurred when a man in a car turned onto a street where protesters were gathered and drove towards the crowd.

The vehicle became surrounded by shouting protesters, and one approached the vehicle carrying a rifle, he said.

The driver then stuck a gun out of the car window and fired several shots, hitting the man with the rifle, before speeding away, according to Capochiano.

Police said the shooter was in custody, and cooperating with investigators.

In Seattle, police arrested 45 people during a night of violent protests in which demonstrators set fire to trailers by a construction site for a youth detention facility.

Protesters slashed car tires and smashed trailer windows, prompting police to declare a riot and clear the streets with pepper spray and flash-bang grenades.

Police Chief Carmen Best implored people to “come in peace to the city”, and castigated the demonstrators.

“The rioters had no regard for the community’s safety, for officers’ safety or for the businesses and property that they destroyed”, local media quoted her as saying.

 

Federal agent ‘surge’ 

 

Further south in Portland, police and federal agents fired tear gas and forcefully dispersed protesters for a second night early Sunday.

Police moved after a group of protesters tried to pull down a fence erected around a federal courthouse.

Portland has taken centre stage for the highly controversial crackdown by federal agents ordered by Trump — one that is not supported by local officials, and which many say smacks of authoritarianism.

Saturday’s demonstration began peacefully, with crowds playing music and dancing, blowing soap bubbles and attaching red roses to the barricades.

But it ended — like many before it — with tear gas fired after protesters attached ropes to barricades surrounding the city’s courthouse in an attempt to pull them down.

Portland police declared the area a riot, ordering protesters to leave, before they were joined by federal officers to clear the area.

An AFP reporter saw at least two men being detained and escorted from the scene by federal officers.

Portland police earlier confirmed a man was stabbed, with the suspect “held down by protesters” before he was detained by officers and charged with assault, according to a statement.

The victim was transported to hospital with a serious injury.

 

‘Little green men’ 

 

“I don’t like what’s happening down here, what Trump is doing,” said Mike Shikany, a 55-year-old aerospace engineer at the protest, adding he did not “want to get anywhere near the little green men,” meaning the federal troops.

Portland retiree Jean Mullen, 74, said that without pressure nothing would change.

“It’s time to become the country we always brag about being. And we can’t brag anymore, about anything. We aren’t first in anything and it’s a terrible, terrible thing to see at the end of my life,” she said.

The inspector general of the US Justice Department on Thursday opened an official investigation into the federal crackdown, but an Oregon federal judge on Friday rejected a legal bid by the state to stop agents from detaining protesters.

Trump last week announced a “surge” of federal agents to crime hotspots including Chicago, following an increase in violence in the nation’s third-largest city.

Federal authorities said agents deployed there would partner with local law enforcement, not serve as riot-control forces as seen in Portland.

 

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