"Disturbing new reality": US reporter updates James O'Brien on clashes between police and protesters

1 June 2020, 14:34

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien hears the latest about the violent clashes between police and anti-racism protesters in the US after the death of unarmed black man George Floyd while in police custody.

Hundreds have been arrested at anti-racism protests as US states impose curfews and call in National Guard troops following a further night of violent clashes across the country.

Police and protesters clashed in cities across America in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while he was being arrested by Minneapolis police.

A video has exposed officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes despite pleas from Mr Floyd that he could not breathe - the officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

LBC's Washington reporter Simon Marks told James that nobody knows what will happen next and President Donald Trump's tweets about the protests were "attacks on the press."

Simon Marks told James that it is impossible to define these protests with any one phrase as some are peaceful, some are not, but most certainly they are not race riots - there is not one thing that defines the protesters except their anger at the death of George Floyd, he said.

"The protesters that are besieging the White House have other issues as well, including the fact more generally that they believe the Trump administration has committed a variety of errors, mistakes, racist statements," Simon said.

Some demonstrations have also been pockmarked by looting, leading to Donald Trump's comment that "looting leads to shooting" - this echoes the racially charged phrase "when the looting starts the shooting starts" uttered by Presidential candidate George Wallace in 1967, a person many believed to be a white supremacist.

President Trump has called Antifa, an amalgam for antifascism, a terrorist organisation despite there being "no single organisation called Antifa," Simon Marks said.

Simon observed that the President has not made an announcement to the nation pledging to work with the public to remedy the issues that have surfaced, "He can't do that so there's no end in sight."

Instead Mr Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics used against protesters on Saturday night, commending the National Guard deployment in Minneapolis as he declared: "No games!," and saying police in New York City "must be allowed to do their job!"

"Donald Trump's Twitter account is reduced to essentially I know you are but what am I, accusing his rivals, his opposition, his enemies even of the tactics that he positively revels in himself," said James, also pointing to the US coronavirus death toll which has surpassed 100,000.

The Washington reporter observed that some of the protesters will have been fuelled by the President's longstanding denial of coronavirus, with inaction up until a few weeks ago.

"One of the most concerning aspects of this is the number of occasions on which working journalists have found themselves being on the receiving end of absolutely illegal and unconstitutional restrictions and brutality," Simon said, with Mr Trump "essentially giving law enforcement a green light to go after journalists."

"To see scenes of heavily militarised police in a relatively middle class neighbourhood of Minneapolis marching up the road over the weekend and opening fire with paint canisters on a white family...we're in a completely new reality here and it's a very very disturbing one."