Minnesota calls in National Guard to quell unrest over black man's death in police custody
MINNEAPOLIS: Authorities in Minneapolis and its sister city St Paul got reinforcements from the National Guard on Thursday (May 29) as they girded for fresh protests and violence over the shocking police killing of a handcuffed black man.
After stores were looted and burned overnight Wednesday in Minneapolis, officials in the so-called Twin Cities warned they would not tolerate violence while seeking to assure that investigations into George Floyd's death were underway.
Hundreds of people began marching in Minneapolis in the late afternoon, while in St Paul, just to the east, police said there was ongoing looting.
"We know there's a lot of anger. We know there's a lot of hurt," said St Paul Police Chief Todd Axtel.
"But we can't tolerate people using this as an opportunity to commit crimes," he said.
"We are not going to tolerate our buildings being burned down."
Minnesota's governor Tim Walz ordered Guard troops to assist police as local, state and federal law enforcement officials sought to ease racial tensions sparked by Monday night's fatal arrest of George Floyd, 46.
Four city police officers involved in the incident, including the one shown pressing his knee into Floyd's neck as he lay on the ground, were fired from their jobs the next day.
At a morning news briefing, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo apologized to Floyd's family, conceding his department had contributed to a "deficit of hope" in Minnesota's largest city even before Floyd's deadly encounter with police.
READ: Angry US protests, looting over police killing of black man in Minneapolis
"I am absolutely sorry for the pain, devastation and the trauma that Mr. Floyd's death has left on his family, his loved ones and our community," he said.
Floyd's family demanded the officer and three others who were present, all since fired from their jobs, face murder charges.
"Justice is these guys need to be arrested, convicted of murder and given the death penalty," Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, told CNN.
"But people are torn and hurting because they are tired of seeing black men die, constantly, over and over again."
Hours later, officials overseeing investigations from the US Justice Department, FBI, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and local prosecutors appealed for calm at a joint news conference, as they gathered evidence.
"Give us the time to do this right, and we will bring you justice, I promise you," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters. He acknowledged the policeman's conduct depicted in the video was "horrible", but said, "My job is to prove that he has violated a criminal statute."
Freeman said his office had also reached out to veteran civil rights activist Jesse Jackson for help in conveying the message that law enforcement takes the case seriously.
Minnesota's US attorney, Erica McDonald, pledged a "robust and meticulous investigation into the circumstances surrounding" Floyd's arrest and death.
The investigation, which Attorney General William Barr had designated a "top priority," will focus on whether the arresting officers used the "color of law" to deprive Floyd of his civil rights, a federal crime, she said.
Two national African American leaders, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, arrived in Minneapolis and urged more protests.
Jackson called Floyd's death a "lynching in broad daylight".
Sharpton said videos, including police bodycam footage, were all the evidence needed to arrest the police officers involved.
"We are going to make sure that this prosecution goes down," said Sharpton.
READ: LeBron James joins athletes voicing outrage over death of unarmed George Floyd after arrest
The announcement capped two days of unrest in which riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets clashed with rock-throwing protesters who filled the streets in an outpouring of rage over Floyd's death.
Floyd, a Houston native known affectionately to friends as "Big Floyd" and who had worked as a nightclub security staffer, was reportedly suspected of trying to pass counterfeit money when police took him into custody.
"I CAN'T BREATHE"
An onlooker's video of the arrest showed Floyd lying face down on the street, gasping for air and repeatedly groaning for help as he pleaded, "Please, I can't breathe." The officer pinned Floyd's neck to the ground for about eight minutes, until he grew still. He was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.
A second night of disturbances on Wednesday, punctuated by looting, vandalism and arson, began hours after Mayor Jacob Frey urged local prosecutors to file criminal charges in the case.
READ: Family demands murder charges after police killing of African American
Most protesters had been peaceful, while a core group engaged in unruly behavior, the police chief said.
The Floyd case was reminiscent of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in New York City who died after being put in a banned police chokehold.
Garner's dying words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement calling attention to a wave of killings of African-Americans by police using unjustified lethal force.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged US authorities on Thursday to deal with "entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination" in America's criminal justice system.
Ilhan Omar, a black Somalia native who represents Minneapolis in Congress, called for calm but said there was "extreme frustration" in the community over the incident.
"Anger really is boiling over because justice still seems out of reach," she said.
The city named the four officers involved in the encounter as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. Local news media have identified Chauvin as the officer seen kneeling on Floyd's neck.
Chauvin's attorney, Tom Kelly, declined comment in an email to Reuters.
Police department records posted online show 18 internal affairs complaints filed against Chauvin, 16 of which were closed without discipline.