Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that he opposes invoking the centuries-old Insurrection Act to allow President Trump to tap the U.S. military and help stanch unrest sweeping the nation. 

"The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations," Esper said. "We are not in one of those situations."

Most Americans sympathize with the protesters and disapprove of President Donald Trump’s hard line against the sometimes-violent demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd, the African American man killed in a confrontation with Minneapolis police last week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Protests in most major cities Tuesday night were relatively calm. Many cities intensified their curfews: Authorities in New York and Washington, D.C., ordered people off streets while it was still daylight. In Los Angeles, embattle Police Chief Michel Moore is facing calls to resign for saying Floyd's death is "on the hands" of those encouraging criminal acts at protests. 

At least 9,300 people have been arrested in protests around the country, according to a tally by the Associated Press. Los Angeles has recorded 2,700 arrests, followed by New York with about 1,500. 

A closer look at some recent developments:

Roxie Washington, the mother of Floyd's daughter, gave her first public comments since his death. She tearfully lamented that he'll miss their 6-year-old's future milestones, such as graduating and getting married. A California police officer is on leave and under investigation after viral videos show his 'disturbing' behavior and misconduct towards protesters in San Jose. Six Atlanta police officers are facing charges over an incident caught on video where they are seen using stun guns and forcefully removing two college students from a car.

Remembering George Floyd: Memorial services, funeral to be held in Minnesota, North Carolina and Texas.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for the Daily Briefing. Here's the latest news:

Defense secretary opposes use of military to quell unrest

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday he does not support use the U.S. military for domestic law enforcement to quell violence erupting at some protests. Esper, speaking at a news conference, said the National Guard is "best suited" for supporting local law enforcement. Governors in more than half the states have called up their National Guards, and more than 20,000 guard members have been called to duty. 

Esper described Floyd's death as a "horrible crime" but said he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to override bans on the use of the military on U.S. soil. 

Ex-President George W. Bush: Injustice and fear 'suffocate out country'

Former President George W. Bush is calling for peace and empathy following the "brutal suffocation" of George Floyd. In a rare public statement, Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush were "anguished" by Floyd's death and "disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country." Bush said they had "resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen." 

Bush, who has been critical of Trump, did not mention the current president by name but said, "The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America – or how it becomes a better place." 

– William Cummings

Lawsuit: Minnesota officers' treatment of journalists 'tramples Constitution'

Police in Minnesota violated journalists' constitutional rights when officers pepper sprayed, fired rubber bullets at or otherwise attacked, injured or arrested members of the press covering recent protests, a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges. The suit claims that a pattern of attacks on journalists carried out by the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol "tramples on the Constitution."

Jared Goyette, the named plaintiff in the suit, is a freelance journalist who says police shot him in the face with a less-lethal ballistic ammunition a week ago. The police and State Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

– Ryan W. Miller

Chicago eases restrictions, opens up downtown

The city began returning to normal on Wednesday as drawbridges to downtown lowered, restaurants reopened and parking regulations were again enforced. Authorities had effectively isolated downtown from the rest of the city by raising the bridges and posting police and national guardsmen at checkpoints, but those had been removed as of Wednesday morning. Although there were scattered reports of looting across the city, things appear to have calmed significantly, especially as light rain fell as the day dawned.

Like many cities, Chicago was dealing with a double whammy of coronavirus and protests, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said business owners felt strongly that reopening on Wednesday was the right thing to do.

– Trevor Hughes

LA mayor backs police chief amid calls to fire him

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed confidence in Police Chief Michel Moore, despite Moore's comments equating looters to the police officers responsible for the death of George Floyd. Moore has apologized and is fending off calls for his firing after likening looters in the city to those responsible for George Floyd's death.

"We didn't have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd," Moore said Monday. "We had people capitalizing. His death is on their hands, as much as it is those officers."

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of Hollywood, and several hundred demonstrated downtown, at times kneeling en masse and at others calling for Moore's resignation. Moore tweeted out an apology and reiterated his regret at a Police Commission meeting on Tuesday, saying he misspoke. 

"If I believed for a moment that the chief believes that in his heart, he would no longer be our chief of police. I can't say that any stronger," Garcetti said.

– Jordan Culver

64% of Americans sympathetic to protesters; 55% reject Trump stance

Almost two-thirds of American adults were “sympathetic to people who are out protesting right now,” while 27% said they were not and 9% were unsure, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted Monday and Tuesday. More than 55% of Americans said they disapproved of Trump’s efforts, including 40% who “strongly” disapproved, while just one-third said they approved. That's lower than his overall job approval of 39%, the poll showed.

Trump has been pressing mayors and governors to crack down on the protests, threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy federal troops to states.

Tension but less violence in New York City

Thousands of protesters marched in Manhattan and Brooklyn on Tuesday night in defiance of an 8 p.m. curfew but with less violence and damage than the city absorbed one night earlier. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to call in the National Guard after Monday night's unrest. The mayor declined. The safety concerns and political squabbles diverted much of the attention away from the message sent by thousands of people, including Eloise Paterson, who says she's worried about her son if he is stopped by police.

“I’m terrified if my son just goes out for a jog,” said Paterson, a 54-year-old African American. “I hope people realize that this isn’t about the looting. The looters have nothing to do with us. We are out here because we want our children to be safe.”

– Christopher Maag,

Curfew lifted, violence erupts in Portland

A peaceful protest that drew thousands to downtown Portland devolved into chaos as hundreds of demonstrators attempted to tear down protective fencing and hurled bottles, bats and batteries at police officers, Chief Jami Resch said Wednesday. Police declared an unlawful assembly and set off flash-bang grenades and tear gas to quell the disturbance. No tally of arrests was immediately available. Mayor Ted Wheeler had canceled an 8 p.m. curfew earlier Tuesday citing Monday night’s peaceful rally..

"There are many thousand of you who are not involved in the violence and destruction, and I thank you," she said. "I know the others who are engaged in criminal acts do not represent you."

More protest coverage from USA TODAY

Planning to protest? How to protect yourself from tear gas, pepper spray. Blackout Tuesday: The social media trend that made the music industry go silent to call attention to the deaths of Floyd and other black Americans. 'I won't fan the flames of hate': Joe Biden addresses George Floyd protests in Philadelphia speech. Riots, violence and looting: Words matter when talking about race and unrest, experts say. 

Pope says world cannot turn 'a blind eye to racism'

Pope Francis says he has “witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest’’ in the U.S. and called for national reconciliation.

“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,’’ the pope said during his weekly Wednesday audience, held in the presence of bishops because of coronavirus restrictions on gatherings.

At the same time, the pontiff warned “nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.’’

California police officer on leave for 'disturbing' behavior toward protesters

A California police officer is on leave and under internal investigation after multiple viral videos showed his frivolous behavior toward demonstrators last week in the wake of George Floyd's death, local officials said.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called the videos "disturbing" during a news briefing on Sunday, and Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the officer, Jared Yuen, would "be accountable for his actions and will have to deal with the consequences."

One video shows Yuen grinning into a demonstrator's camera while swaying side-to-side. A second video shows Yuen telling a demonstrator to "shut up, bitch" just moments before firing his projectile launcher at protesters. Another video shows him saying, "Let's get this (expletive)." A protester in the background responds by saying: "This is funny to them. They have smiles on their faces."

– Jessica Flores

Mother of Floyd's daughter speaks out about her loss

The mother of George Floyd's 6-year-old daughter lamented that he'll miss the girl's future milestones, such as graduating and getting married, in her first public comments since he died in police custody May 25. 

From a podium at the city hall in Minneapolis, where Floyd moved from Houston seeking better work opportunities, Roxie Washington said she wanted to speak up for him and their daughter Gianna, who joined her. Washington also said she wants justice for Floyd.

“He’ll never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle,'' said Washington, who struggled to fight back tears. "If there’s a problem she’s had and needs her dad, she does not have that anymore.”

– Mark Emmert

Business owners express frustration, solidarity with protesters

Several dozen Milwaukee businesses, some already weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, face a difficult recovery after being burglarized and damaged during civil unrest. They included three small grocery stores, multiple mobile-phone stores, a Walgreen's pharmacy and a clothing shop on the city’s north side over the weekend. 

Some of the businesses remained closed Monday, while others reopened with boarded windows and doors. Civic leaders and social activists denounced the property losses.  “The rioting and the looting have got to end now. It’s hurting everyone in the community,” said Darryl Farmer with the Black Panthers of Milwaukee.

Charnjit Kaur, who has a Metro PCS phone store and a clothing shop in Milwaukee, said her businesses had $100,000 in losses from looters who kicked in the doors and windows and stole nearly everything.

Nas Sarsour, who owns a Cricket Wireless reopened Monday, said he supported the protests, but that the looting made things worse in a neighborhood already struggling with job losses in the pandemic. “People have the right to be angry. They have the right to protest. But they don’t have the right to come and break into local businesses,” he said.

– Rick Barrett, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

ABC show 'Black-ish' re-airs 2016 police brutality episode

As the country confronts police brutality and mistreatment of black people in the wake of Floyd's killing, ABC rebroadcast a groundbreaking 2016 episode of "Black-ish" on Tuesday that confronted those troubling issues. 

"Black-ish" creator Kenya Barris spoke about the timely re-airing of the episode in an Instagram post Tuesday, saying it's "been 1,562 days since we first shared that episode with the world and it breaks my heart on so many levels that this episode feels just as timely as it did then and eerily prescient to what's happening to black people in this country today."

– Patrick Ryan and Bill Keveney

GOP senators criticize Trump: 'Word of God as a political prop'

Republican senators were split on President Donald Trump's decision Monday to push back protesters from an area surrounding the White House so he could visit a historic church across the street to take a photo with a Bible.

"I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement. "While there is no right to riot or destroy property, he said, there is a "fundamental — a Constitutional — right to protest." 

Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate's sole black Republican, said he did not approve of the move. 

"As it relates to the tear gas situation and the Bible… it’s not something that I thought was helpful or what I would do without any question," he told Politico. "If your question is: Should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo op? The answer is ‘no.'"

– Christal Hayes

Six Atlanta officers charged in incident with college students

Six Atlanta police officers seen on video forcefully pulling two young college students out of their car during Saturday protests have been charged, mostly with aggravated assault, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. Two of the officers, investigators Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner, were fired Sunday. The incident was caught on body cam video and denounced by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Messiah Young and his girlfriend Taniyah Pilgrim were caught in traffic Saturday night during protests over George Floyd's killing when they were approached by the officers yelling commands. The video shows the officers using stun guns on the couple, breaking the car window with a baton and yanking out both students, who are heard screaming and asking what was happening.

"We understand that our officers are working very long hours under an enormous amount of stress, but we also understand that the use of excessive force is never acceptable,'' Bottoms said.

More news about the George Floyd protests

'Law and order':  Trump returns to 2016 theme as violence spreads after George Floyd death. Resources, ways to donate: How you can take action from home after the death of George Floyd. Covering Floyd protests: Journalists blinded, injured, arrested.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Jessica Flores and Erick Smith, USA TODAY