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George Floyd Protests Escalate in Minneapolis
Protests over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in police custody, have intensified in Minneapolis. Some have turned violent, with the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets and people setting buildings on fire.
“No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police. No justice, no peace.” “Why y’all doing this? What is y’all doing this for?” “This is crazy — absolutely insane. That’s South Minneapolis right there, four or five miles from here.”
Minnesota’s governor activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency.
Gov. Tim Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard on Thursday after two nights of escalating protests following the death of George Floyd, declaring a state of emergency in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding communities.
Protests erupted across South Minneapolis on Wednesday into early Thursday morning after Mr. Floyd, who was black, died in police custody on Monday. He repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” while being detained by a white police officer, who was fired after the encounter.
The governor said that he supported peaceful demonstrations but that the destruction on Wednesday night warranted further action to keep the peace. During the protests, the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets as people set buildings on fire and looted stores.
“Unfortunately, some individuals have engaged in unlawful and dangerous activity, including arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property,” Mr. Walz wrote in his proclamation. “These activities threaten the safety of lawful demonstrators and other Minnesotans, and both first responders and demonstrators have already been injured.”
After a night of demonstrations, ash fell Thursday morning at a shopping center on Lake Street, where the recently renovated Target had been defaced and looted. A nearly completed apartment development across the street had been burned to its concrete lower floor. Other commercial structures were also badly damaged.
At a news conference on Thursday afternoon, Mayor Jacob Frey said the destructive protests were a reflection of the black community’s anger over 400 years of inequality.
“What we’ve seen over the last two days and the emotion-ridden conflict over the last night is the result of so much built up anger and sadness,” he said.
Mr. Frey declared an “all-out effort to restore peace and security” in the city, and said he has authorized a “unified command structure” to protect infrastructure and communities, particularly during the pandemic.
“In believing in our city, we must believe that we can be better than we have been,” the mayor said. “We must confront our shortcomings with both humility, as well as hope. We must restore the peace, so that we can do this hard work together.”
Mr. Floyd, 46, died on Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer who pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for several minutes. A video of the arrest, in which he is heard pleading “I can’t breathe,” spread widely online.
“They executed my brother in broad daylight,” Philonise Floyd told CNN on Thursday morning, breaking down in tears. “I am just tired of seeing black people dying.”
Mr. Floyd’s death also spurred protests in Memphis and Los Angeles, where law enforcement officials faced off with people blocking the 101 Freeway downtown.
Four officers involved in the arrest were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, and the F.B.I. joined the investigation into the death of Mr. Floyd, a resident of St. Louis Park, Minn. On Wednesday, Mr. Frey, the mayor, called for the police officer who had pressed his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck to be arrested and charged.
The Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday morning that it had made a federal investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death a “top priority” and has assigned experienced prosecutors and investigators to the case. The department “urges calm as investigators methodically continue to gather facts,” the statement said.
A fatal shooting near the protests was under investigation.
The police said they were investigating a fatal shooting near a looted pawnshop in the area where the protests occurred.
In a news conference early Thursday morning, a Minneapolis Police Department spokesman, John Elder, said two officers responded to a call near the Cadillac Pawn & Jewelry shop, where they found the victim in grave condition on the sidewalk. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Mr. Elder declined to confirm media reports that the victim was involved in looting, or whether the store owner was the shooter.
“That is one of the theories we’re looking into,” he said, noting that the crime is still under investigation. “We want to make sure that we do in fact have all of the facts moving forward. We don’t want to cast aspersions on somebody if in fact they weren’t doing anything wrong.”
A suspect was taken into custody, Mr. Elder said, but he declined to provide the suspect’s identity, citing investigative protocol.
The violence came at the end of what had been a tense period.
Protesters began gathering Wednesday afternoon outside the Third Precinct headquarters, but by early evening, officers were trying to disperse the crowds using flash-bang grenades and tear gas.
Some residents of the area said Thursday that they believed people from outside the city had been responsible for a large portion of the fires and looting.
“This is just painful,” said Cynthia Montana, 57. “I don’t think the people who did the looting and all this destruction are the same as the peaceful protesters that have been at Cup Foods,” where Mr. Floyd was arrested on Monday.
“I’m a protester,” Ms. Montana said. “It was so peaceful over there.”
She said the nearby neighborhood is diverse, but in the broader Twin Cities community, there are huge racial disparities.
“It’s like layer and layer and layer of gunpowder building over a long time,” she said, “and when you become an adult, it’s this stick of dynamite.”
Mr. Floyd’s family called for murder charges against the officers involved in his arrest.
Mr. Floyd’s death — and the recent killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African-American man who was chased and fatally shot by two white men in Georgia — has prompted comparisons to other killings of black Americans, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
The episode was seen as part of a broader pattern of devastating encounters between African-Americans and law enforcement denounced by civil rights leaders. It has laid bare tensions between members of the local community and the 800-plus police force in Minneapolis, a divide mirrored in other communities across the country.
The Minneapolis Police Department on Wednesday identified the fired officers as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
Mr. Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, called for justice on NBC’s “Today” show.
“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did,” Ms. Floyd said.
Other members of the Floyd family, appearing on “This Morning” on CBS, said that protests were not enough.
“I don’t want the protests to be for just show,” said Tera Brown, Mr. Floyd’s cousin, who appeared with two of Mr. Floyd’s brothers. “I want to see action.”
“This was clearly murder,” she added. “We want to see them arrested; we want to see them charged; we want to see them convicted for what they did.”
The Justice Department promised a thorough investigation of Mr. Floyd’s death.
The Justice Department said on Thursday that it would investigate the officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death and determine whether they should face federal criminal charges.
The investigation will be led by the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, Erica MacDonald, and by F.B.I. agents in Minneapolis. Attorney General William P. Barr and the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Eric Dreiband, are closely monitoring their inquiry, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
“The Department of Justice has made the investigation a top priority and has assigned experienced prosecutors and F.B.I. criminal investigators to the matter,” the department said in a statement.
The department noted that is a violation of federal law for an officer acting in an official capacity to deprive another person of his or her constitutional rights, including the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment.
President Trump has condemned the actions by the officers caught on video and urged the department to expedite the investigation, but he has not reached out to Mr. Floyd’s family. During a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Trump declined to say whether the officers should be prosecuted, but he called the video “shocking.”
The Justice Department has declined to charge police officers in other high-profile cases in which a black person has died in their custody.
In July, after a five-year investigation, the department said it would not bring federal civil rights charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the Staten Island police officer who killed Eric Garner by wrapping his arm around his neck. The killing was caught on video and widely circulated online.
The decision bitterly divided the Justice Department’s civil rights division lawyers, who wanted to charge Mr. Pantaleo, and prosecutors in Brooklyn, who believed they could not win the case at trial.
Mr. Barr ultimately sided with the Brooklyn prosecutors, who had argued that they did not have enough evidence to prove that Mr. Panataleo committed a federal civil rights violation because they could not prove that he had made a clear decision to use a chokehold, which the New York Police Department had banned, when he killed Mr. Garner.
Like Mr. Floyd, Mr. Garner also gasped “I can’t breathe” just before he died.
Minor protests and looting continued on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of the State Capitol.
Lawmakers and employees at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., were told to evacuate the building as a precaution on Thursday afternoon, after looting continued at nearby stores.
The evacuation was prompted by scenes of unrest that began unfolding earlier in the day at stores a few blocks away. St. Paul police officers encountered large groups of people stealing merchandise from a Target store and other businesses in the city’s Midway neighborhood, said St. Paul Police Department spokesman Steve Linder.
Some threw rocks, liquor bottles and bricks at the responding officers, while another group of people rushed into a Foot Locker in an attempt to “pillage” sneakers, he said, noting that a fight broke out in the parking lot between a pedestrian and a driver who tried to run the person over.
“Our officers have been busy trying to keep things calm and de-escalate when possible, and protect people and property,” Mr. Linder said. “It’s beyond just St. Paul,” he said, referring to instances of “flash looting.”
As crowds of protesters gathered in increasing numbers a few blocks away from the Capitol, the secretary of the Senate ordered staff members and legislators to leave the building at about 1:30 p.m. local time, according to staff members. The Capitol Security Department of Public Safety then ordered all Capitol staff and employees to immediately evacuate about an hour later, a staff member said.
Congressional Democrats pushed for a broader investigation that included two other recent killings.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department on Thursday to investigate Mr. Floyd’s death along with the recent killings of two other black people: Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot after being pursued by white men near Brunswick, Ga.; and Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police officers in Louisville, Ky., during a “no-knock” raid of her apartment.
The committee members asked the department to open so-called pattern and practice investigations into potential police misconduct in all three cases. Federal law prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of their constitutional rights.
They also asked that the department investigate the local prosecutors who were involved in Mr. Arbery’s case. The two armed men who chased Mr. Arbery had connections to local law enforcement and were not arrested for 74 days, until after a video of the shooting was widely circulated.
Mr. Arbery’s death and the subsequent local investigation “are reminiscent of early 20th century lynchings in the Jim Crow South,” the committee members wrote.
Jerry Nadler, the chair of the committee, said it is considering legislation to address racial profiling and the excessive use of force by police officers.
He noted that the Justice Department has uncovered rampant police abuses in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Cleveland and Chicago, which led the police departments in those cities to negotiate consent decrees with the federal government.
New York’s governor compared the Floyd case to the death of Eric Garner.
In a report on Mr. Floyd’s arrest, the Minneapolis police said they had been investigating an accusation of someone trying to pass a fake $20 bill on Monday in the southern part of the city when they confronted a man who was sitting on a blue car and was later identified as Mr. Floyd.
“He was ordered to step from his car,” the Police Department said in a statement on Monday. “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
Video footage from nearby security cameras and bystanders did not show any attempt by Mr. Floyd to resist officers. Instead, it showed him begging for his life as he lay handcuffed on the ground, one officer grinding a knee into his neck while three others stood by.
When asked about the Floyd case at his daily coronavirus news briefing on Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who previously served as the state’s attorney general, said that he believes prosecutors could bring a criminal case against the police officer who restrained Mr. Lloyd.
“I don’t prejudge a case. Maybe there are facts that I don’t know. But, I’ll tell you, if I was a prosecutor, I would be looking at that case from the first moment. Because I think there is a criminal case there,” Mr. Cuomo said.
“I think the situation was so disturbing and ugly, and frightening. It was just frightening that a law enforcement officer anywhere in this country could act that way,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo brought up the case of Mr. Garner, whose death at the hands of a New York City police officer in 2014 galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Sometimes you say you rationalize in your own mind, ‘Well this is terrible, but we’ll learn from it.’ How many times do we have to learn the same lesson?” he said. “We went through it in New York. We had the Garner case in New York. How many times do you have to learn the same lesson?”
Video Shows Arrested Man Telling Police He Can’t Breathe
A bystander’s video in Minneapolis shows a police officer with his knee on a man’s neck during an arrest. The man died a “short time” later, the police said.
Arrested man: [moaning] “What you trying to say?” Police officer: “Relax.” Arrested man: “Man, I can’t breathe — my face —” [inaudible] Police officer: “What do you want?” Arrested man: “I can’t breathe!” Bystander 1: “How long you all got to hold him down?” Unidentified speaker: “Don’t do drugs, kids —” Bystander 2: “This ain’t about drugs, bro.” [inaudible conversation] Bystander 2: “He is human, bro.” Bystander 1: “His nose —” Bystander 2: “ — right now bro, you know it’s broken. You can’t even look at me like a man because you a bum, bro. He’s not even resisting arrest right now, bro.” Bystander 1: “His nose is bleeding.” Bystander 3: He’s passed out!” Bystander 2: “You [expletive] stopping his breathing, right now, bro. You think that’s cool? You think that’s cool? What is that? What do you think that is? You say — you call what he’s doing, OK?” Police officer: “Get back!” Bystander 2: “You’re calling what he’s doing OK. You call what he’s doing OK, bro?” Police officer: “Only firefighters —” Bystander 4: “Yes, I am from Minneapolis.” Bystander 2: “Bro, you, you, you call — you think that’s OK? Check his pulse!” Bystander 4: “The fact that you guys aren’t checking his pulse, and doing compressions if he needs them, you guys are on —” Bystander 1: “Oh my God!” [inaudible] Bystander 4: “OK, yeah, and I have your name tag.” Bystander 5: “Freedom of speech.” [shouting] Bystander 2: “Don’t touch me!”
Police officers nationwide condemned the tactics used in the arrest of Mr. Floyd.
Mr. Floyd’s death and the ensuing outrage prompted law enforcement officers across the country to speak out on social media, with many condemning the Minneapolis police officers involved and denouncing their actions as unjustifiable.
Much of the outrage has focused on the officer seen pinning his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. In a video posted on Facebook, Detective Dmaine Freeland of the New York Police Department said he felt compelled to speak out “because I realized by saying nothing that I am indeed saying something.”
Detective Freeland, wearing his police uniform, called the officer who pinned Mr. Floyd “my enemy” for betraying his oath as a police officer, and sought to distance “me and every good cop” from “that heinous act” which occurred in Minneapolis.
“In the beginning, in taking this career, we take an oath to serve and protect,” Detective Freeland said. “I would like to say that that officer failed on both aspects. And because he has failed, he is not my friend, he is not my brother, but he is my enemy.”
New York Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said on Twitter, “What we saw in Minnesota was deeply disturbing. It was wrong. We must take a stand and address it.”
Police chiefs in Texas also shared their reactions online, and urged law enforcement officers across the nation to oppose abuses that have disproportionately affected communities of color.
“The death of #GeorgeFloyd occurred in Minneapolis, but these tragic encounters between officers and residents have occurred in too many cities across the country, including Fort Worth,” Chief Ed Kraus of the Fort Worth Police Department wrote on Twitter. “ We must serve more compassionately, and intervene when we see our own acting inappropriately.”
Chief Renee Hall of the Dallas Police Department said on Twitter that “there was no empathy in what we saw” in the footage from Minneapolis, adding that their actions do not represent the nation’s 800,000 police officers.
In Louisiana, the Shreveport police chief placed one of his officers on leave amid an investigation into a since-deleted Facebook post in which the officer, Sgt. Brent Mason, called Mr. Floyd’s death “a mistake or misstep not an act of murder.”
Other officials have also defended the officers’ actions. Hal Marx, the mayor of Petal, Miss., said he “didn’t see anything unreasonable” in the video and said the officers involved were being “crucified.”
The former N.B.A. player Stephen Jackson was friends with Mr. Floyd and called him “Twin.”
Stephen Jackson, the former N.B.A. player and now podcast host, told “The Today Show” on Thursday that the death of Mr. Floyd, a longtime friend, “destroyed” him.
“I jumped up, screamed, scared my daughter and almost broke my hand punching stuff because I was so mad,” Mr. Jackson said, describing his reaction when he learned the news.
Jackson has publicly detailed his relationship with Mr. Floyd on social media this week. They were close enough to refer to each other as “Twin,” Mr. Jackson said, stemming from growing up in the Houston area together.
Mr. Jackson told “The Breakfast Club” podcast that he met Mr. Floyd, four years his senior, when Mr. Jackson was in high school. They joked that they looked so much alike that they could have the same father, hence the nickname “Twin.”
“Neighborhoods, they all get beefing,” Mr. Jackson said. “But you always have one guy that can go to all the neighborhoods and everybody will rock with him. Floyd was that guy.”
Mr. Jackson has shared more than a dozen social media posts having to do with Mr. Floyd’s death since Tuesday, including pictures of their childhood.
“What’s killing me the most about this whole thing is that being a professional athlete, so many people abuse your friendship and your kindness, and he was one of those guys who genuinely supported me,” Mr. Jackson told NBC. “He didn’t call unless he really needed it.”
The Minneapolis Police Department has received many excessive force complaints, especially from black residents.
Excessive force complaints against Minneapolis officers have become commonplace, especially by African-American residents. One of the officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death, Officer Chauvin, 44, had several complaints filed against him, three of which led to reprimands for his language and tone.
Mr. Chauvin shot a man who was trying to grab an officer’s gun in 2008, according to The Pioneer Press. He was also present at two other shootings, one of them fatal, but it was unclear if he fired his weapon in those cases, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality, a local organization advocating police reform.
African-Americans account for about 20 percent of the city’s population, but they are more likely to be pulled over, arrested and have force used against them than white residents, Police Department data shows. And black people accounted for more than 60 percent of the victims in Minneapolis police shootings from late 2009 through May 2019, data shows.
Yet there is a deep rift between the city’s police force — which also is predominantly white — and the community, one that seems to grow larger with each killing.
Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Dan Levin, Sopan Deb, Marc Santora, Matt Furber, Audra D.S. Burch and John Eligon.