Facing Protests Over Use of Force, Police Respond With More Force
(NYT) - Videos showed officers using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters and bystanders.
Demonstrations continued across the United States on Sunday as the nation braced for another grueling night of unrest over police shootings and the death of George Floyd, amid growing concern that aggressive law enforcement tactics intended to impose order were instead inflaming tensions.
Videos showed police officers in recent nights using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked. The footage, which has been shared widely online, highlighted the very complaints over police behavior that have drawn protests in at least 75 cities across the United States.
In Salt Lake City, officers in riot gear shoved a man with a cane to the ground.
In Brooklyn, two police S.U.V.s plowed into a crowd of protesters.
In Atlanta, police officers enforcing a curfew stopped two college students in a car, fired Tasers on them and dragged them out of the vehicle.
And in Minneapolis, where there have been six consecutive nights of protests and clashes, a video appeared to show officers yelling at people on their porches to get inside and then firing paint canisters at them. “Light them up,” one officer said.
As crowds began gathering again in cities on Sunday, President Trump resisted calls to address the tensions roiling the country. Instead he used Twitter to criticize local Democratic leaders for not doing more to control the protests.
Mayors and police chiefs spent the day explaining, defending and promising full investigations into the actions of officers seen on the disturbing videos.
“I didn’t like what I saw one bit. I did not want to ever see something like that,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, who also complimented the city’s police officers for generally showing a “tremendous amount of restraint.”
Military vehicles in recent nights have moved down city streets as phalanxes of officers in full riot gear fired clouds of noxious gas. Yet the show of force showed little sign that it would bring calm.
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Instead, some people said, it was escalating tensions and serving as a reminder of the regular use of military equipment and tactics by local police forces.
Mass demonstrations are among the most difficult situations that the police have to manage. They must balance constitutional liberties with the safety of officers and the public. Crowds are unpredictable and, in recent days, sometimes hostile. Too much force can escalate the situation — but so can too little.