MINNEAPOLIS (Minnesota) • Protesters clashed with riot police firing tear gas for a second night in Minneapolis in an outpouring of rage over the death of a black man seen in a widely circulated video gasping for breath as a white officer knelt on his neck.
The video, taken by an onlooker at Monday night’s fatal encounter between police and Mr George Floyd, 46, showed him lying face down and handcuffed, groaning for help and repeatedly saying, “Please, I can’t breathe”, before growing motionless.
The second day of demonstrations on Wednesday, accompanied by looting and vandalism, began hours after Mayor Jacob Frey urged prosecutors to file criminal charges against the white policeman shown pinning Mr Floyd to the street.
Mr Floyd, who was unarmed and reportedly suspected of trying to pass counterfeit bills at a corner eatery, was taken by ambulance from the scene of his arrest and pronounced dead later at a hospital. The policeman who knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck and three other officers involved were dismissed from the police department on Tuesday as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation.
The family of Mr Floyd demanded that the four white policemen involved in his death be charged with murder. “I would like those officers to be charged with murder, because that’s exactly what they did,” Ms Bridgett Floyd, his sister, said on NBC television.
Hundreds of protesters, many with their faces covered, thronged the streets around the Third Precinct police station late on Wednesday, about a kilometre from where Mr Floyd had been arrested, chanting, “No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe”.
The crowd grew to thousands as night fell and the protest turned into a stand-off outside the station, where police in riot gear formed barricade lines while protesters taunted them from behind makeshift barricades of their own.
Police, some taking positions on rooftops, used tear gas, plastic bullets and concussion grenades to keep the crowds at bay. Protesters pelted police with rocks and other projectiles. Some threw tear gas canisters back at the officers.
Television news images from a helicopter showed dozens of people looting a Target store, running out with clothing and shopping carts full of merchandise. Fires erupted after dark at several businesses, including a car parts store.
The media said a smaller, peaceful protest was held outside the home of one of the police officers.
Outrage over Mr Floyd’s death also triggered a rally in his name against police brutality by hundreds of people in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon.
He was begging to be able to breathe. It was a public execution.
DEMOCRATIC SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS, urging a federal investigation into rights abuses by the police, and saying what the policeman did by using his knee on Mr George Floyd’s neck was ‘torture’.
That demonstration turned violent after a crowd marched onto a nearby freeway and blocked traffic, then attacked two California Highway Patrol cruisers, smashing their windows, local media reported.
Calls for justice came from around the United States. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said the FBI needs to thoroughly investigate the case.
“It’s a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but part of an engrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Mr Biden said. “We have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they are entitled to.”
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris urged a federal investigation into rights abuses by the police, calling the policeman using his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck “torture”.
“He was begging to be able to breathe,” she said. “It was a public execution.”
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE