Via Financial Times

Violence erupted in Minneapolis in the early hours of Friday as tensions flared over the death this week of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody.

Local television stations and newspapers showed chaotic scenes in the Midwestern city as several buildings were set on fire and police struggled to control the protests.

A Minneapolis police precinct near where Mr Floyd was taken into custody on Monday was attacked and set ablaze, according to the Star Tribune as the local Fox News affiliate showed video of flames shooting into the air. The authorities called on people to “retreat” from the area amid concerns the building could “explode”.

A CNN reporter and crew that was filming the situation in the city on Friday morning was arrested on television while in the middle of a live broadcast, according to the US news network. It was not immediately clear what prompted the move by authorities clad in riot gear.

As the situation deteriorated, the Minnesota national guard said it had deployed 500 soldiers to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul to provide assistance to police and to defend firefighters.

Speaking early on Friday, US President Donald Trump said he could not “stand back and watch this happen to a great American City.” Writing on Twitter, Mr Trump said he had told Minnesota governor Tim Walz that the US military was prepared to “assume control”. He added: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.

This week’s protests in Minneapolis and other major US cities — many of which have been peaceful — were prompted by the death on Monday of Floyd while in police custody.

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A bystander shot a video of the arrest, which showed him “handcuffed, lying on his stomach and seemingly subdued” while a white police officer “pressed his knee down on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes,” according to the Associated Press.

Floyd can be heard on the video begging the officer to release his knee, saying “please, please, please, I can’t breathe” before he eventually fell motionless. The four officers involved in the attempted arrest were sacked on Tuesday and the justice department is investigating the incident as a “top priority.”

The situation has echoes of the death of Eric Garner, the black man who died in New York in 2014 after being put in an illegal chokehold by a white police officer while repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”

Mr Garner’s words have been a rallying call for civil rights groups that have sharply criticised what they allege are heavy-handed tactics deployed by some police forces against people of colour.

“The uprising spreading across this country is fuelled by systemic racial issues that have been ingrained in the fabric of this nation for decades,” said Derrick Johnson, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a civil-rights group. “As we’ve seen over the past few days, these issues have now manifested into anger, sadness, fear, and confusion.”

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday apologised on behalf of the city, saying “being black in America should not be a death sentence”. He said terminating the officers was the “right call” and later called for charges against the arresting officer in the Floyd case.

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“If most people, particularly people of colour, had done what a police officer did late Monday, they’d already be behind bars,” Mr Frey said.