WASHINGTON • A video of a handcuffed black man dying while a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for more than five minutes has sparked a fresh furore in the US over police treatment of African Americans.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday fired four police officers following the death in custody of Mr George Floyd the day before as the suspect was pressed shirtless onto a Minneapolis street, an officer’s knee on his neck. “Your knee in my neck. I can’t breathe… Mama. Mama,” Mr Floyd pleaded.
Bystanders filmed the scene as Mr Floyd, thought to be in his 40s, slowly grew silent and motionless, unable to move even as the officers taunted him to “get up and get in the car”. He was taken to hospital where he was later declared dead.
Mr Frey expressed outrage as calls rose for the officers to be prosecuted for murder. “For five minutes, we watched as a white officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man,” Mr Frey said. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Protesters, many wearing face masks because of the coronavirus outbreak, held signs saying “Justice for George Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter” during a rally near the scene of Mr Floyd’s death.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who said he had been retained by Mr Floyd’s family, in a statement said Mr Floyd had been stopped over a forgery accusation, a charge often used for writing bad cheques or using fake banknotes for purchases. “This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning on a non-violent charge,” he said.
The Floyd incident recalled the 2014 choking death of New Yorker Eric Garner by police. Mr Garner was then being detained for illegally selling cigarettes and his death helped spark the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.
Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said he had passed the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which could turn it into a federal rights violation case. But there were mounting calls for the officers’ arrest on homicide charges.
Mr Floyd’s death comes on the heels of two other deaths of African-Americans that involved police wrongdoing. On March 13, in Louisville, three white Kentucky policemen forced their way into the home of Ms Breonna Taylor and shot her in a drug investigation.
And police and prosecutors in Brunswick, Georgia, allegedly covered up the killing of a young black jogger by the son of a retired investigator for local law enforcement.
In a separate incident, a video of a white woman calling the police about a black birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park has gone viral, sparking anger about African Americans being falsely reported to cops. The clip, posted on Twitter and viewed 30 million times, was filmed by the man, Mr Christian Cooper, who said he had asked her to leash her dog.
As she struggles to control the dog, she approaches Mr Cooper and is then seen making a phone call. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she tells him, appearing to dial 911. The exchange prompted outrage on social media, with users calling her a Karen, an online term used to describe an entitled white woman.
Within 24 hours, the woman, identified as Ms Amy Cooper, had given up her dog, publicly apologised and been fired from her job.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES