Enormous protests are expected to continue for a third night in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, as a community mourns the death George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died on Monday while under police custody.
Footage from the US city shows buildings alight, stores being ransacked, and riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets into large crowds of demonstrators.
Photos from the scene show the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct Station, a focal point of the protests, guarded by heavily-armed officers. Many of the building’s windows had already been smashed in.
Why are the protests kicking off?
On Monday evening, George Floyd, a 46-year-old resident of nearby St. Louis Park, was arrested by Minneapolis Police Department officers under suspicion of forgery.
CCTV footage captured by a nearby supermarket shows officers leading Floyd from a parked vehicle and being handcuffed. A subsequent video, filmed by an onlooker, shows Floyd face-down on the ground. An officer can be seen with his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd said.
The footage appears to show Floyd losing consciousness. Paramedics arrive on the scene and pull Floyd onto a stretcher.
Floyd died in hospital on Monday evening.
In a statement, Minneapolis Police Department claimed Floyd “physically resisted officers.” While the CCTV footage obscures some of the officer’s interactions with Floyd, he does not appear to resist police in either video.
Footage of the incident spread widely and rapidly. The four officers involved in the arrest were subsequently fired, and an FBI investigation was launched into the incident.
Floyd’s family called for the officers to face charges over his death.
“We want to see them arrested, we want to see them charged,” Floyd’s cousin, Tera Brown, told US network CBS.
“We want to see them convicted for what they did.”
Those calls were echoed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who told reporters, “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now.”
Investigations are ongoing, and the Department of Justice has signalled its inquiry into Floyd’s death is “a top priority.”
No charges have been laid against any of the officers involved, but anger and grief over the incident have culminated in enormous demonstrations, with some protestors seeing Floyd’s death as another example of unchecked police brutality against African Americans.
What happens now?
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who earlier condemned the “sickening” footage, has recruited the National Guard to “protect peaceful demonstrators, neighbors, and small businesses in Minnesota.”
Mayor Frey has declared a state of emergency, according to the Star Tribune. Those conditions are slated to last until Sunday, as authorities monitor the situation, and take stock of damage to properties and businesses.
Amid reports of demonstrations spreading to neighbouring city St. Paul, Frey reportedly said he’d move to provide a space for safe and peaceful protests.
But it is unlikely the deep-rooted resentment and grief behind the demonstrations will diminish any time soon.
Outrage over Floyd’s death has spread far further than Minnesota, too, with protests springing up in Los Angeles and New York City.
International superstars like Jamie Foxx, Justin Bieber, and Star Wars‘ leading man John Boyega have also used their global reach to condemn what they see as racially motivated violence.
US President Donald Trump himself has spoken out, AP reports, saying he feels “very, very badly” about the “shocking sight.”
Whether that sentiment – from a man not exactly known for quelling racial tensions in the United States – leads to permanent change is yet to be seen.Image: @AttorneyCrump / Twitter / SIPA USA / AAP Image