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Local leaders call for end to destruction in nationwide protests

Demonstrators take to the streets to protest the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Photo by Alex Wroblewski/UPI
Demonstrators take to the streets to protest the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Photo by Alex Wroblewski/UPI | License Photo

May 31 (UPI) -- St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on Sunday said that demonstrators unfamiliar to local activists are "intent on sparking violence" during protests in Minnesota sparked by the police-involved killing of George Floyd.

Carter told CBS News' Face the Nation that advocates, including those associated, with the Black Lives Matter movement, have said they do not recognize those that have been involved with engaging in violence and that law enforcement are working to identify them.

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"Our concern is it seems very clear that while some of our folks out there in the streets are just crying out to be heard -- that they believe that George Floyd should still be alive, that all four of those officers should be held accountable for their actions and that we have deep soul-searching work to do as a nation to stop this pattern from happening over and over again," he said. "There also seems to be people in those crowds who are very intent on sperking violence, on breaking windows, on starting fires and on trying to convince those folks to engage in unlawful behavior."

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Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, Carter said more than 170 businesses have been damaged in St. Cloud as protests have taken place to call for more severe punishment for the officers involved with Floyd's killing in neighboring Minneapolis.

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"There's no way that you can argue those actions are designed to produce a better future for our community. Quite the opposite," he said.

Carter's comments come after he on Saturday corrected earlier statements that all protesters who were arrested in the city Friday were from outside the state, saying they were based on inaccurate information.

"This morning I shared with you arrest data received in my morning police briefing which I later learned to be inaccurate," said Carter.

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The mayors of Washington, D.C. and Atlanta called for peace on Sunday as protests have taken place throughout the nation.

At least two dozen cities, including Atlanta, enacted curfews on Saturday night, while at least 13 states and the District of Columbia have activated the National Guard in response to nationwide protests, seeking a first-degree murder charge for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who was seen kneeling on Floyd's neck as he was unable to breathe and general reform of policing nationwide.

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Appearing on NBC News' Meet the Press, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called for an end to destruction during the protests.

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"We're sending a very clear message to people that they have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, but not to destroy our city," Bowser said. "We saw a level of just destruction and mayhem among some that was maddening."

Police fired pepper spray at protesters near the White House on Saturday night as some were seen throwing objects at police lines and setting fire to property in the area.

President Donald Trump has been critical of the protesters and threatened violent response including tweeting Friday night that any protesters who make their way onto White House property would be "greeted with the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen."

Bowser criticized Trump's response, saying "the president has a responsibility to help calm the nation."

"He can start by not sending divisive tweets that are meant to harken to the segregationist past of our country," she said.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appealed to the frustration of the protesters, adding that there are "no easy answers" to the systemic problems at the heart of the demonstrations.

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"This is more of a systemic issue we are facing that will take time to address. Certainly, acknowledging the deaths of so many innocent people in America -- there are no easy answers but as Mayor Bowser says: The solution is not to destroy our cities," Bottoms told NBC News.

National security adviser Robert O'Brien on Sunday told CNN's State of the Union he does not believe there is systemic racism within America's police system instead suggesting the issues are perpetrated by a smaller group of bad actors.

"There is no doubt that there are some racist police, I think they're the minority, I think they're the few bad apples and we need to root them out," he said.

O'Brien also accused antifa, the anti-fascist movement that has been associated with various other protests throughout the country, for driving the violence and said Trump and Attorney General William Barr are seeking information from FBI Director Christopher Wray about what steps the agency has been taking to dismantle, surveil and prosecute the group.

"They're militants who are -- are coming in and burning our cities, and we're going to get to the bottom of it," O'Brien said.

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Trump on Sunday tweeted that the United States would designate antifa as a terrorist organization, but did not immediately provide any further details on potential action.

New York Politicians also reacted to video showing police vehicles driving through a barrier into a crowd of protesters on Saturday.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson shared the video on Twitter, calling it outrageous.

"Driving police vehicles into crowds of protesters is not de-escalation. Shoving and beating nonviolent people is not de-escalation," he wrote. "If NYPD's intent is to keep folks safe, this isn't it."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday he would not criticize police officers and that the protesters in the video created an "untenable" situation.

"I wish the officers had found a different approach. But let's begin at the beginning. The protesters in that video did the wrong thing to surround them, surround that police car, period," said de Blasio.

U.S. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called de Blasio's comments "unacceptable" in a tweet early Sunday morning.

"This moment demands leadership and accountability from each of us. Defending and making excuses for NYPD running SUVs into crowds was wrong," she wrote.

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On Sunday, de Blasio said the city would conduct a full investigation into the actions of the officers.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, also criticized the police response to the protests over the weekend in a tweet Sunday.

"It is clear many police departments don't train and supervise for restraint and de-escalation and some officers are just plain racist and violent," he wrote. "Combine this with a president who appears enthusiastic about making it worse and weaponry transferred from [the Department of Defense] and here we are."

Schatz said that he will introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to discontinue the program that transfers military weaponry to local police departments.

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