WASHINGTON • Minneapolis city council members have pledged to abolish the police force whose officer knelt on the neck of a dying Mr George Floyd, as the biggest civil rights protests in more than 50 years demanded a transformation of US criminal justice.
Huge demonstrations have swept across the United States, which is just slowly emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, in the two weeks since Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, 46, died after choking out the words “I can’t breathe”, under the knee of a white police officer.
Though there was violence in the early days, the protests have lately been overwhelmingly peaceful. Curfews were removed in New York and other major cities including Philadelphia and Chicago.
The protests have, however, deepened a political crisis for President Donald Trump, who repeatedly threatened to order active duty troops onto the streets.
Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday morning that he has ordered the National Guard to start withdrawing from Washington “now that everything is under perfect control”.
Nine members of the 13-person Minneapolis city council pledged on Sunday to do away with the police department in favour of a community-led safety model, though they provided little detail.
“We are committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe,” council president Lisa Bender told CNN, after a majority of councillors committed to the effort.
“A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we’re going to end the current policing system,” Ms Alondra Cano, another member of the council, said on Twitter.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, however, is against getting rid of the department, and the head of the city’s powerful police union, Mr Bob Kroll, had appeared on stage last year with President Trump.
The vow by the majority of councillors came a day after Mayor Frey was booed at and asked to leave a Defund The Police rally. He later told Agence France-Presse that he supported “massive structural reform to revise this structurally racist system”, but not “abolishing the entire police department”.
Meanwhile, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have said they would introduce legislation in the House of Representatives yesterday to make policing more accountable.
The legislation is expected to make it easier to sue police officers over deadly incidents, to ban the sort of chokeholds that led to Mr Floyd’s death, and to establish a national database to record police misconduct.
One member of the caucus, Representative Val Demings of Florida, a former police chief in the city of Orlando, told ABC that “systemic racism is always the ghost in the room”.
“What we have to do as a nation is hold police accountable,” said Ms Demings, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE