Social media have been abuzz with demands and protest against the alleged murder of George Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody on Monday (May 25) night after a white officer knelt on his neck during his arrest even as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
A video, widely circulated online and shot by a bystander, showed officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for around eight minutes as Floyd gasped for breath on the ground with his face against the pavement and eventually stops breathing and moving.
4 Minneapolis police officers have been fired in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
Floyd was unarmed & handcuffed. He died after an officer knelt on his neck for up to 10 minutes until he laid motionless on the ground.😓#BlackLivesMatter#JusticeForGeorgeFloyd
— Mazi Chiemerie Esiowu (@ChiemerieEsiowu) May 28, 2020
Floyd’s death has once again stirred the hornet’s nest as questions on police brutality against people of colour took the centre stage amid the global COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking to reporters at Cape Canaveral, Florida, President Donald Trump called “the death in Minneapolis a very, very sad event” and said his administration was going to look into it.
Later, he tweeted that he had asked for the federal investigation be expedited.
Democrat Joe Biden said Floyd’s death was part of an ingrained, systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country and “cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights.”
“It also sends a very clear message to the black community and black lives that are under threat every single day,” Biden added, saying he was glad that the mayor and the police department fired the officers, “but I don’t think that’s enough.”
The mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, called for criminal charges against the white police officer “I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” said Frey.
After the news spread like wildfire, protesters marched more than 2 miles in Minneapolis on May 26 to the police precinct in the city, with some damaging property and skirmishing with officers in riot gear who fired tear gas.
Conflict erupted again on May 27 at the same precinct, with some protesters throwing rocks and bottles at the police.
A news helicopter video showed looting of nearby stores, including a Target, a Cub Foods and an auto parts store, with no evident police intervention.
Another demonstration unfolded on the street outside Chauvin’s suburban home.
An officer told protesters that Chauvin was not present there. Red cans of paint were earlier spilled on his driveway, and someone wrote murderer in chalk at the end of his driveway.
Many activists, citizens and celebrities have called for criminal charges against Frey. But Floyd’s family and the community may have to wait months, if not years, before investigations are complete.
Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer and the attorney for Floyd’s family, called for peaceful protests. “We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we must not endanger others during this pandemic,” Crump said in a statement.
“We will demand and ultimately force lasting change by shining a light on treatment that is horrific and unacceptable and by winning justice.”
The day after Floyd died, Chauvin and three other officers were fired and the FBI is now investigating whether officers willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights.
Floyd’s death has reopened the divide between minority communities and the police.
Also, the police in Minneapolis have come under the microscope in recent years for deadly run-ins with citizens.
A 24-year-old black man, Jamar Clark, was shot in the head and died in 2015 after a confrontation with two white officers responding to a reported assault.
A county prosecutor declined to prosecute the officers, saying Clark was struggling for one of the officers gun when he was shot.
However when a white woman, Justine Rusczcyk Damond, who died in 2017 when she was shot in the stomach by a Minneapolis officer responding to her 911 call, the officer, who is black, was convicted of manslaughter and murder. He is serving a 12-year prison sentence.
(With inputs from agencies.)