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Two Americas: A Collision Of Protests Over Police Violence And A Pandemic

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program with a look at specific events happening today. But throughout the hour, we're also going to widen our lens to get different perspectives on why this is happening. But we're going to start in Minneapolis, where the unrest that has consumed that city since the death of George Floyd in police custody on Monday continues with a mix of peaceful protests...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #1: (Chanting) Don't shoot. Don't shoot.

MARTIN: ...And more violent outbursts resulting in burned buildings and looting and police firing tear gas at protesters.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEAR GAS BEING FIRED)

MARTIN: This is tape from last night at different times. The protests have extended far from Minnesota this week, spreading to at least 20 cities across the country. Here in Washington, D.C., protesters marched past the White House yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS #2: (Chanting) Say his name. George Floyd. Say his name. George Floyd. Say his name. George Floyd. Say his name. George Floyd. Say his name.

MARTIN: In Atlanta, the unrest included the burning of cars and looting. Mayor Keisha Lance bottoms issued an urgent plea for calm.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: We are better than this. We're better than this as a city. We are better than this as country.

MARTIN: This hour, we'll have the latest from Minneapolis and an update on protests nationwide. But first, we want to take a moment to note how the unrest over Floyd's death comes at an extraordinary time for America, as the country takes the first tentative steps to reopen from a pandemic lockdown, a crisis in which black and brown Americans have experienced disproportionate sickness, death and economic harm.

It's also a moment where other disparities are in full view. For example, recent protesters in Minnesota have been subjected to tear gas, and President Trump has spoken of using the military to restore order, while last month, heavily armed, mostly white protesters in Wisconsin and Michigan occupied state capitals to demand that businesses be allowed to reopen, at times openly confronting law enforcement. Few arrests took place.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The guns are fine. We are allowed to bring guns. We are allowed to bring them here.

MARTIN: President Trump called those protesters very good people and said this about them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They seem to be very responsible people to me, but it's - you know, they've been treated a little bit rough.

MARTIN: Yesterday in a tweet, President Trump referred to the protesters in Minnesota as thugs, writing the word in all capital letters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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