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  Arrests in US as racial tensions heat up

Arrests in US as racial tensions heat up

REUTERS/AFP
Published : Jul 11, 2016, 6:00 am IST
Updated : Jul 11, 2016, 6:00 am IST

A girl cries after lighting candles at a makeshift memorial for the slain Dallas police officers in front of police headquarters in Dallas. (Photo: AP)

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A girl cries after lighting candles at a makeshift memorial for the slain Dallas police officers in front of police headquarters in Dallas. (Photo: AP)

The police arrested scores of people in demonstrations overnight Saturday to Sunday in several US cities, as racial tensions simmer over the killing of black men by police.

Protesters led by the Black Lives Matter movement are demanding justice for two African-American men shot dead by cops, their dying moments captured in video that went viral online.

Protests shut down main arteries in a number of US cities on Saturday, leading to numerous arrests, scuffles and injuries in confrontations between the police and demonstrators.

Undeterred by heightened concerns about safety at protests after a lone gunman killed five police officers in Dallas Thursday night, organisers went ahead with marches in the biggest metropolis, New York City, and Washington D.C. It was the third straight day of widespread protests after the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, by the police in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and the death of Philando Castile, 32, on Wednesday night in a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb.

The most recent shooting deaths by the police come after several years of contentious killings by law enforcement officers, including that of Michael Brown, a teenager whose death in the summer of 2014 caused riots and weeks of protests in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Protesters, told to disperse, threw rocks, bottles and construction rebar at officers, injuring at least three, the St. Paul police said. The police made arrests and used smoke bombs and marking rounds to disperse the crowd.

Protesters at the scene said the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. The police said early on Sunday they had begun clearing the highway of debris in preparation for re-opening it. A march in Baton Rouge saw scuffles between the riot police and Black Panther activists, several of whom carried shotguns.

After a short standoff later in the evening, the riot police arrested as many as 30 demonstrators and recovered weapons.

Protests also took place Saturday in Nashville, where protesters briefly blocked a road, and in Indianapolis.

Hundreds of protesters marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York. The crowd swelled to around a thousand people, closing down Fifth Avenue.

The New York police said they arrested about a dozen protesters for shutting down a major city highway.

Dallas police headquarters and surrounding blocks were cordoned off and SWAT teams were deployed on Saturday after authorities received an anonymous threat against officers across the city, but a search for a “suspicious person” turned up no one.

The incident occurred as the city remained tense following Thursday night’s fatal shootings of five Dallas police officers by a former US Army reservist. The police asked news organisations to stop airing live video from the area as they carried out the search.

The police said on Twitter that “out of an abundance of caution, officers searched the garage to ensure reports of a suspicious person (were) thoroughly investigated.”

Before the police sounded the “all clear,” tactical officers dressed in protective gear and armed with rifles searched the three-story structure, the police said.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama, seeking to soothe raw emotions after a former US soldier killed five policemen in Dallas and high-profile police shootings of two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, has urged Americans not to view the US as being riven into opposing groups.

“First of all, as painful as this week has been, I firmly believe that America is not as divided as some have suggested,” Mr Obama, who will cut short his European trip on Sunday to visit Dallas, told a weekend news conference in Warsaw.

“When we start suggesting that somehow there’s this enormous polarisation, and we’re back to the situation in the ‘60s, that’s just not true,” Mr Obama added. “You’re not seeing riots, and you’re not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully.”

Location: United States, Texas, Dallas