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Tear gas, death and arrests as protests across the US boil over

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Scenes of violence: A bloodied demonstrator is arrested by federal police at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse yesterday in Oregon. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Scenes of violence: A bloodied demonstrator is arrested by federal police at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse yesterday in Oregon. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

AP

Scenes of violence: A bloodied demonstrator is arrested by federal police at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse yesterday in Oregon. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Protests in several major cities across the US turned violent as weeks of civil unrest and clashes between activists and authorities boiled over.

Police and racial justice protesters clashed in another tumultuous night that saw scores arrested after demonstrators took to the streets and police in some cities dispersed crowds with tear gas and pepper spray.

In Austin, Texas, a man was shot and killed in the midst of a downtown rally. In Richmond, Virginia, a truck was set ablaze outside police headquarters. Outside of Denver, Colorado, a vehicle sped through a crowd of people marching down a highway, when a shot was fired injuring a protester, police said.

The focal point of the protests continued to be in the Pacific North-west, where a week of clashes between activists and federal agents in Portland, Oregon, pumped new energy into a movement that began in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis, on May 25.

In Portland, the authorities declared a riot after protesters breached a fence surrounding the city's federal courthouse building. The "violent conduct of people downtown" created a "grave rise of public alarm," the Portland police wrote on Twitter.

Federal agents and local police demanded that protesters leave the area and used tear gas to try to disperse them. But the activists stood their ground. Several people were arrested.

A Marriott hotel in downtown Portland was shut down, and guests were asked to leave after hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside because it was believed that federal agents were staying there.

The crowd waved signs with messages such as "No more brutality!" as they stood on the riverside parkway outside the hotel and chanted: "Kick them out, Marriott!"

In Seattle, police declared a riot on Saturday afternoon and used pepper spray and flash grenades in an attempt to disperse a crowd of roughly 2,000 people in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood, marching in the city's largest Black Lives Matter protest in more than a month.

Nightly protests since Mr Floyd's killing had dwindled in recent weeks in Seattle.

But they were reinvigorated in the wake of federal action in the Portland protests and after Democratic Washington governor Jay Inslee tweeted that President Donald Trump had sent federal law enforcement agents to the city.

Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, also said the president 'continues to exacerbate the situation on the ground, endanger communities, and jeopardise the work of local officials'. Portland's Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler, who was tear-gassed last week as he joined protesters, has described the agents an "occupying force."

But on Sunday, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, defended the presence of federal agents there, saying they're protecting a courthouse targeted by protesters.

"It has not only been vandalised, but they're trying to burn it down," he said on ABC's 'This Week'. "We can't have this in American cities. You've got people there and fencing there, but they're throwing Molotov cocktails, and doing all kinds of rioting."

In Aurora, Colorado, protesters marched on Interstate 225 in protest at the death of Elijah McClain, who died after being put in a chokehold last summer. A vehicle sped through the crowd, sending protesters running for safety.

"A protester decided to fire off a weapon, striking at least one other protester" police said on Twitter. That person was in stable condition yesterday.

On Austin's Congress Avenue, normally a site for music venues and bars, police were monitoring a crowd of protesters on Saturday night when senior officer Katrina Ratcliff said shots were fired, killing a man. The suspect was detained, she said, "and is cooperating with officers."

"Someone dying while protesting is horrible," Mayor Steve Adler of Austin said in a statement. "Our city is shaken and, like so many in our community, I'm heartbroken and stunned."

Irish Independent