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UPDATE: George Floyd protests spread across the US – curfews imposed

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PHOTO: Demonstrators protest in Boston - Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Violence continues to erupt across cities in the US, the 6th night of protests that were sparked by the death in police custody of an African-American, George Floyd. Riot police have clashed with protesters in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Washington and firing tear gas and pepper bullets trying to disperse the crowds. There have been more peaceful protests staged in other US cities.

At least 40 cities have now imposed curfews and 5,000 members of the National Guard have been activated in 15 states, as well as Washington, DC in streets and outside the White House. But protesters are defying the curfews, leading to tense stand-offs.

There have been multiple instances of police vehicles being attacked and vandalised, some even set alight . Riot officials are responding with tear gas and flash grenades. Looters are taking advantage of the situation and raiding stores.

A large group of protesters crossed over Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, New York yesterday, moving north through the Soho district, where several arrests were made. Protesters are facing off with riot police in full gear. Tensions remain high in New York with protesters shouting “Shame” at the police.

In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, a truck driver was arrested after reportedly crashing through a road barrier before heading towards a crowd of protesters marching along a highway. Footage, posted on social media, shows dozens of people surrounding the vehicle and dragging the driver out of the truck after it was stopped.

Bogdan Vechirko, the man who was at the wheel of the truck that drove into the crowd of protesters has been charged with assault and will appear in court at a later date.

In Denver, thousands of people protested peacefully in Colorado State Capitol by lying face down with their hands behind their backs and chanting: “I can’t breathe.” There have also been largely-peaceful protests in Atlanta, Boston, Miami and Oklahoma City.

In the Atlanta protests, two officers were sacked yesterday for using excessive force, including firing a taser on two college students. In a statement last night the Boston Mayor Marty Walsh thanked peaceful protesters in the city whilst criticising “those who committed destruction and violence”. Cleveland’s Mayor Frank Jackson has extend the city’s curfew until at least tomorrow… “people can only travel for essential activities, and businesses are urged to close”.

The George Floyd case has reignited simmering tensions over police killings of black Americans. The outrage is also reflective of years of frustration over socio-economic inequality and segregation. When added to the statistical imbalance of black Americans in Covid-19 cases, and the difficulty many of them are having accessing proper health care during the pandemic, last weeks are seen to be a tipping point.

At a time when the public are seeking reassurance from the country’s leadership, US President Trump is taking to Twitter to, in almost real time, accuse his political opponents and far-left organisations for being responsible for the unrest, peppered with name-calling and bellicosity. He has also accused the protests of being “professionally managed”.

Just a week ago, on the evening of Monday, May 25, Minneapolis police received a phone call from a grocery store alleging that George Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 note when paying for groceries. Police officers were trying to get him into a police truck when he collapsed onto the ground, explaining to them he was “claustrophobic”.

Police maintain that he physically resisted officers and was handcuffed. Video of the incident does not show how the confrontation started.

With police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck, George Floyd can be heard on video saying “please, I can’t breathe… don’t kill me”. Derek Chauvin had his knee on GeorgeFloyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, according to a preliminary autopsy by the county medical examiner who also used several videos of the incident in their investigation. Three minutes of the nearly 9 minutes the autopsy report says that “Mr Floyd became non-responsive”.

Nearly 2 minutes before Derek Chauvin removed his knee the other attending police officers checked George Floyd’s pulse and were unable to find one. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.

44 year old Derek Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter for the death of George Floyd. He was meant to make his first court appearance today, but with Minneapolis still gripped by unrest, the appearance has now been pushed back until June 8. Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison says he expects Chauvin to face additional charges.

 

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