The Third Police Precinct burns in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Demonstrators demanding justice burned a Minneapolis police station and took control of the streets around it last night, heaving wood onto the flames, kicking down poles with surveillance cameras and torching surrounding stores.

What's happening: The crowd was protesting the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose life was snuffed out Tuesday by a white Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for about eight minutes.

  • Four officers have been fired, but no one has been charged.
  • Marq Claxton of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance said on MSNBC that the actions were an effort to "force the world to listen to the cries of a community that feels under siege ... that black men and women are threatened by law enforcement on a daily basis."

For hours, no firefighters or police officers were seen anywhere around the protest.

  • TV reporters on the scene said they heard no sirens — just honking by demonstrators.
  • People threw fireworks at the flaming precinct, and the crowd cheered.
  • A liquor store was engulfed, and CNN reported that a smoke shop and a Target had also been torched.

Explaining officers' retreat, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told a news conference at 1:30 a.m. local time: "As situations started to escalate more and more, as we saw more and more people breach the perimeter, ... it became obvious to me that safety was at risk."

  • "Brick and mortar is not as important as life."

An Arby's, boarded up for protection, was broken into and a dozen people swarmed the entrance, MSNBC's Morgan Chesky reported from outside.

  • "That is really the scene, block by block, in this part of the city," he said.

The context: Eddie Glaude, chair of Princeton's Department of African American Studies, said the violence reflected distrust of government and police, as the nation copes with a pandemic that has brought massive unemployment and loss of life.

  • "We’re on the cusp of a kind of desperation in this country," he said on MSNBC during live coverage of the pandemonium.

The bottom line ... Former NAACP President Ben Jealous said on MSNBC: "This is what it looks like when justice has been denied for a long time."

A pawn shop near the police precinct burns on Thursday. One person has died amid the fallout. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Many protesters outside the police precinct carried signs saying "I can't breathe," in reference to video of the incident posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said the words. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Protesters gather at Hennepin County Government Plaza on Thursday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Getty Images
Law enforcement personnel watch as people protest on Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Law enforcement have used flashbangs, tear gas and rubber bullets in attempts to clear protests this week. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
A protester holds a sign while demonstrating outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on Tuesday. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Protesters march on Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
A protester wearing a facemask holds up his hands during a demonstration outside the Third Police Precinct on Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
Two men walk past a wall that has "RIP George Floyd" written on Wednesday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Protesters march through the streets while demonstrating against the death of George Floyd on Tuesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
A memorial lies outside the Cup Foods, where George Floyd was killed in police custody, on Thursday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Police officers walk the street in a cloud of tear gas during a protest on Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police spray protesters with pepper spray during a demonstration outside the Third Police Precinct on Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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Race's media moment

Photo Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Photo by David J. & Janice L. Frent/Corbis via Getty Images, NY Daily News via Getty Images, Bettmann / Contributor, Dave Rushen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, Star Tribune via Getty Images.

Across every type of media — music, television, books, podcasts and more — messages about fighting systemic racism and driving social change are topping the charts and dominating the country's attention span.

Why it matters: Just as the late 1960s propelled new soundtracks, movies and shows about social justice, media today will serve as a lasting record of this moment in America's history.