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Protests, looting erupt in Minneapolis over racially charged killing by police

China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-29 10:22
A woman holds her inhaler and leans on a man after being hit with pepper spray by police officers during a protest on Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A white police officer was caught on a bystander's video pressing his knee into the neck of a black man. The man later died. [Photo/Agencies]

The death of a black man at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has sparked protests and calls for investigations.

George Floyd, 46, died on Monday as a city police officer knelt on his neck while he was handcuffed.

The incident, videotaped by bystanders, was posted online and widely shared on social media on Tuesday. It incited widespread condemnation and a large protest in the Midwestern city on Tuesday night.

Demonstrators clashed with police and set a store alight during a second night of protests on Wednesday over the killing. The protest was accompanied by looting.

Police fired tear gas and formed a human barricade to keep protesters from climbing a fence surrounding the Third Precinct, where the officers accused of killing George Floyd had worked.

They pushed protesters back as the crowd grew, a day after firing rubber bullets and more tear gas on thousands of demonstrators angered by the latest death of an African American at the hands of US law enforcement.

Television news images from a helicopter over the area showed dozens of people looting a Target store, running out with clothing and shopping carts full of merchandise.

The case was seen as the latest example of police brutality against African Americans, which gave rise six years ago to the Black Lives Matter movement.

US President Donald Trump in a tweet called Floyd's death "sad and tragic", and all four officers had been fired, as prosecutors said they had called in the FBI to help investigate the case, which could involve a federal felony civil rights violation.

In the video, a white police officer was seen pressing his knee against the neck of Floyd, who was pleading "I can't breathe".

A few bystanders were heard on the recording asking the officer to let go.

A female voice says: "His nose is bleeding". A male voice says: "He's stopped breathing now. You think that's cool?" But the white officer does not respond to them.

'Fractured' ties

When an ambulance arrived, the officer got off Floyd, who was by then motionless and appeared unconscious. He was put on a stretcher and taken away and later pronounced dead in hospital.

"The technique that was used is not permitted; it is not a technique that our officers get trained in," said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday. "And our chief has been very clear on that piece. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with a knee to someone's neck."

Police said Floyd matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case at a grocery store, and that he resisted arrest. Video emerged later that would challenge that depiction.

The FBI Minneapolis Division said in a statement that the investigation will focus on whether the four officers "willfully deprived of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States".

Jamar Nelson, a longtime community activist in Minneapolis, described the relationship between the police and the city's black community as fractured, The New York Times reported.

"The truth is, we do not have a good history," he said, describing the police department as "racist, bigoted and uncaring about the black community".

However, he said the city's current police chief, Medaria Arradondo, had been trying to repair the relationship. Nelson said "firing the four officers expeditiously is a big deal".

Floyd's brother, Philonise, told CNN: "Knowing my brother is to love my brother. They could have tased him; they could have maced him. Instead, they put a knee on his neck and just sat on him and then carried on. They treated him worse than they treat animals."

George Floyd's sister Bridgett Floyd told ABC on Wednesday: "I would like those officers to be charged with murder, because that's exactly what they did. They murdered my brother. ... They should be in jail for murder."

May Zhou in Houston and agencies contributed to this story.

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