Protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody spread around the United States on Friday, as his case renewed anger over others involving African Americans, police and race relations.
They were largely peaceful as demonstrators marched in the streets from Los Angeles to New York. But in Atlanta, demonstrators set a police car ablaze and broke windows at CNN’s headquarters.
Protesters also struck officers with bottles and broke into a restaurant in downtown Atlanta. The demonstration started peacefully but quickly changed tone Friday evening. Protesters used barricades to break police vehicle windshields and jumped from car to car.
Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
Africa has not seen the kind of protests over Floyd’s killing that have erupted across the United States, but many Africans have expressed disgust and dismay, openly wondering when the U.S. will ever get it right.
“WTF? ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’?” tweeted political cartoonist Patrick Gathara in Kenya. He, like many, was aghast at the tweet by President Donald Trump, flagged by Twitter as violating rules against “glorifying violence,” that the president later said had been misconstrued.
Mindful of America’s image on a continent where China’s influence has grown and where many have felt a distinct lack of interest from the Trump administration in Africa, some U.S. diplomats have tried to control the damage.
The ambassador to Congo, Mike Hammer, highlighted a tweet from a local media entrepreneur who addressed him saying, “Dear ambassador, your country is shameful. Proud America, which went through everything from segregation to the election of Barack Obama, still hasn’t conquered the demons of racism. How many black people must be killed by white police officers before authorities react seriously?”
The ambassador’s response, in French: “I am profoundly troubled by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The Justice Department is conducting a full criminal investigation as a top priority. Security forces around the world should be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
Similar statements were tweeted by the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Uganda, while the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya tweeted a joint statement from the Department of Justice office in Minnesota on the investigation.
African officials also were publicly outspoken last month over racism in China, when Africans complained of being evicted and mistreated in the city of Guangzhou amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, the U.S. was quick to join in, with the embassy in Beijing issuing a critical security alert titled “Discrimination against African-Americans in Guangzhou” and noting actions against people thought to be African or have African contacts.
Now the Africa-facing version of the state-run China Daily newspaper is tweeting footage from Minneapolis with the hashtags #GeorgeFloydWasMurdered and #BlackLivesMatter.