US President Donald Trump on Tuesday taunted state governors for not embracing his proposal to send in the US military to quell unrest, hours after five officers were shot and wounded in an escalation of tensions between law enforcement and crowds protesting the killing of a black man in police custody.
Demonstrators smashed windows and looted stores in New York City late on Monday, including luxury retailers on Fifth Avenue, and set fire to a Los Angeles strip mall.
Four officers were shot and wounded in St Louis and one in Las Vegas who was critically wounded, authorities said.
Trump has threatened to use the military to crack down on the unrest, now in a second week, and has derided local authorities, including US governors, for their response to the violent protests.
“New York was lost to the looters, thugs, radical left, and all others forms of lowlife & scum. The governor refuses to accept my offer of a dominating National Guard. NYC was ripped to pieces,” tweeted Trump, a Republican, in a reference to New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Trump has provided no evidence that leftists are behind the violence that has engulfed US cities.
Cuomo said he was outraged by the violence and looting in New York City on Monday, and that the city's mayor and police force “did not do their job last night".
He said he believed Mayor Bill de Blasio underestimated the scope of the problem.
The governor said he had offered the state's mayors support from state police or 13,000 National Guard who are on standby and said that with a 38,000-strong police force, New York City should be able to address its unrest on its own.
He said the president sought to blur the line between protesters with a legitimate cause and looters.
De Blasio poured cold water on the idea of bringing the National Guard to America's largest city. He said when forces not trained to handle New York City crowds intervene, “still with loaded weapons and under stress, horrible things happen”.
The head of the National Guard, General Joseph Lengyel, said violence had decreased across the United States on Monday night, even as protest activity was sustained or increased. He said no Guard members were injured overnight.
Lengyel said 18,000 Guard members were assisting local law enforcement in 29 states, a figure that was increasing.
Clashes with police
The violent US protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after a white policeman pinned his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.
Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old Minneapolis police officer who planted his knee on Floyd's neck, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers involved have not been charged.
Floyd's death has reignited the explosive issue of excessive police force, especially against African Americans, and raised tensions on the front lines where officers have faced off against sometimes hostile crowds.
Four officers in St Louis were shot late on Monday and taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. An emotional St Louis police commissioner, John Hayden, said about 200 protesters were looting and hurling fireworks and rocks at officers.
“They had officers with gas poured on them. What is going on? How can this be? Mr Floyd was killed somewhere else and they are tearing up cities all across the country," he told reporters.
A police officer was shot during protests in Las Vegas, police there said in a statement. Officers were injured in clashes elsewhere, including one who was in critical condition after being hit by a car in the Bronx, police said.
The protests have escalated racial tensions in a politically divided country that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with African Americans accounting for a disproportionately high number of cases.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Tuesday told ABC News he is “considering all charges” against the officers involved in the Floyd case and that “all options are on the table".
Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, has condemned the killing of Floyd and promised justice, but he has vowed to take action to stop rightful protests from being hijacked by an “angry mob,” deploying thousands of armed soldiers and law enforcement in the US capital and vowing to do the same elsewhere if mayors and governors fail to regain control.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pledged in a speech on Tuesday to try to heal the racial divide in America and blasted Trump's response to the protests.
Dozens of cities are under curfews not seen since riots after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
“President Trump is right to be focused on law and order. He wasn't hired to be the consoler-in-chief,” said Jason Miller, who advised the Republican president's 2016 presidential campaign.