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'This Has Been Happening for 400 Years': Activists Explain Public Rage as Floyd Protests Enter Fourth Day

46-year-old George Floyd died in police custody on Monday after being pinned to the ground by the neck and strangled to death by a Minneapolis police officer. His death sparked days of protests and rioting, with Minnesota’s governor calling in the National Guard.

Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based organization dedicated to fighting police brutality, says city authorities and senior police officials are directly to blame for the conditions of systemic lack of accountability which caused George Floyd’s death.

“[CUAPB] places responsibility for the current unrest in Minneapolis squarely at the feet of the Minneapolis mayor, city council, and police chief.  They have contributed to, and in some cases created, the administrative and systemic conditions in which police brutality and a lack of public accountability flourishes,” an organization spokesperson indicated in a statement to Sputnik.

Floyd, an African American, died on Monday as a white police officer knelt on his neck for at least seven minutes as the suspect was forced to lay face down on the road in handcuffs. Video footage of the incident spread online, sparking a wave of public outrage in Minneapolis and across America, and culminating in protests and rioting.

The Minneapolis Police Department has a poor record of keeping officers accused of abusing their authority to account, CUAPB says. “To take just one example: in October of 2012, the city dismantled the Civilian Review Authority, and replaced it with the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR).  While by no means perfect, civilian review was sustaining public complaints against police at a rate of 7-8%, while the OPRC had an abysmal 0.36% sustain and discipline rate from 2012-2017.  This institutional failure to discipline police officers has very real consequences."

"The MPD officers who killed Terrance Franklin in 2013 had 19 prior complaints against them, but received no discipline. The MPD officers who killed Jamar Clark in 2015 had 3 complaints filed against them, but again, zero discipline. The MPD officers who killed Justine Damond in 2017 had 6 complaints filed against them, but once again, they received no discipline.  Now we are learning that those who killed George Floyd, former officers Chauvin and Thao, also have multiple complaints filed against them.  Chauvin has had 7 complaints since 2012, but no discipline; and Thao has had 5 complaints dismissed while one remains still open,” the group added.

According to the anti-police brutality group, all these men might have still been alive today if the officers accused of misconduct were disciplined. “Our organization has presented the mayor and city council with the failures of the Office of Police Conduct Review year after year after year, so they are fully aware that it functions as a rubber stamp for brutal policing,” CUAPB stressed.

‘This Has Been Happening Here for 400 Years’

If people “don’t get out on the streets and talk about what happened,” more African Americans will face discrimination, abuse, and death at the hands of police, says Trahern Crews, a Black Lives Matter Minnesota organizer helping to put together the first protests following Floyd’s death.

Systemic abuse and discrimination of Blacks in America “has been happening here for 400 years,” Crews says, suggesting that the country has “a caste system, and at the bottom of that caste system are black lives. They feel like they have the right to treat us like we’re not even human beings. So it’s our duty as an organization like Black Lives Matter to force the government to treat us as human beings. That’s what we’re going to do. If we don’t, they’re not going to give us justice. We have to force them to give us justice.”

Crews believes the US needs a national police registry system to prevent officers accused of crimes in one department or precinct from simply picking up and moving to another without being held accountable for their actions.

‘The People Own the Streets’

Commenting on the outburst of violence and rioting in Minneapolis, which prompted Minnesota’s governor to call in the National Guard to restore order, Dian Dodd, an activist from Minnesota Protests, a Facebook group promoting local protests and gatherings, says the violence was not organized by social justice groups, but was the result of ordinary people simply tired of discrimination venting their rage and frustration.

“What is happening in Minneapolis, and now St. Paul, with looting, burning buildings, and property destruction has not been organized by any social justice group. It has grown organically from the people living here who are just tired. They have had enough…Some of the things they are tired of? Injustice - people of color being murdered by law enforcement without consequences, government oppression and disparate, unfair treatment day in and day out, to just name a few. The feel on the streets where the unrest is occurring is very different from any protest our group has ever organized. The people own the streets where this is occurring, as you can see,” Dodd said.

Multiple buildings in Minneapolis including the police department’s 3rd Precinct were set on fire in a rash of protests over the past three days. On Friday, a spokesman for the National Guard forces deployed to end the violence confirmed that the Guard was armed after being informed by the FBI that there was a credible threat.

'He Did not Deserve to Die Like That'

Anyiwei Maciek, an activist who helped organized a march in support of Floyd in Fargo, North Dakota, says she and her friends were motivated to organize the protest after watching the viral video of his death.

"That video was just heartbreaking. Like we watched for ten minutes, for ten minutes of a man begging for his life saying that he can't breathe and after still, you know, keeping his knee on there and other officers not intervening, not doing anything...We don't know what he was suspected of. But the thing is, is that he did not deserve to die like that...He did not deserve to die on the street. And that's why we’re angry," Maciek told Sputnik.

‘Trump Completely Disconnected’ With the People

Kinuthia Pius, activist, Minneapolis resident and self-proclaimed ardent Trump supporter, says he feels the president has proven himself to be “completely disconnected with the feelings and pain experienced by blacks” in this community.

According to Pius, “the protests that have ravaged Minneapolis and culminated into the burning down of the Minneapolis Police Department are a clear manifestation of an impending anarchy and counter-retaliation if blacks won't be respected.” The activist says he will reconsider his support for the president “if he continues to condone this outright abuse of human rights against blacks and other minority races.”

The activist’s sentiment is echoed by Roderick Webber, a local activist and artist who has reported on the rioting and violence from the scene in recent days.

“The people of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are responding to centuries of generational trauma and systemic oppression. The reaction may seem unreasonable to the white population— but I’m guessing that is because most of them have never had to deal with their grown son cry for his life for having done nothing but be born with the ‘wrong’-colored skin,” he said.

President Trump announced Wednesday that he had personally requested federal investigators to probe Floyd’s “very sad and tragic death,” while adding that he greatly appreciates “all the work done by local law enforcement.”

Late Thursday, however, Trump appeared to call protesters “THUGS” who were “dishonoring the memory of George Floyd,” saying he wouldn’t “stand back and watch” Minneapolis burn.

Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck until the man’s death, was arrested on Friday by state investigators and charged with murder and manslaughter.