On May 25, American city Minneapolis police received a 911 – emergency – call. The call had been made by an employee of retail establishment delicatessen or deli complaining that a man, George Floyd, paid a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a packet of cigarettes.
Four policepersons came and arrested George Floyd. A little scuffle took place and the police overpowered George Floyd, who was pinned down by three policepersons.
Videos shot by bystanders showed George Floyd was unable to breathe. He and onlookers called for help saying he cannot breathe. But policepersons did not relent until moments after he went motionless. Paramedics had arrived but were of no avail.
Derek Chauvin, the policeman seen most prominently in the video, and three of his colleagues were fired the next day — May 26 — by police department. On May 29, Derek Chauvin was booked for murder. Investigation began against three other policepersons.
Now post-mortem report of George Floyd has confirmed that he died due to neck compression which caused cardiac arrest. His death happened in police custody. George Floyd was an African-American and Derek Chauvin is a white man.
Protests began on May 26, the day after George Floyd murder with protesters calling the fatally excessive use of force by police as racist action. Hundreds of protesters took to streets on May 26 evening and gathered outside police stations in Minneapolis.
Protesters used spray paint to deface police station. Some pelted police vehicles with stones, and threw water bottles at policepersons. The police fired beanbag rounds and pepper spray at protesters.
On May 27, more protesters came out on the streets of Minneapolis and St Paul, the capital of Minnesota. These two cities are called the Twin City. A number of white people joined the protests.
The protests had been peaceful with the police using rubber bullets to disperse the growing crowds. Suddenly a white man – unidentified – smashed the windows of a building near a police station with a hammer.
In many American media reports and social media posts, this man has been described the agent provocateur, the person responsible for introducing violence in the peaceful protests. Some time later, a pawnshop owner shot dead a man. He said on arrest that he suspected burgling.
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By now protesters were turning violent and police using more force against them. Social media posts spread the protests to other cities of the US. Protesters were using placards saying, “I can’t breathe”, “Black lives matter”, “White silence is violence” and “Justice for George Floyd” among others.
Protests have since continued with many cities witnessing arson, loot, violence and large-scale vandalism. The protests reached the White House on May 31 forcing US President Donald Trump, as reported by the New York Times, to hide in a bunker. The underground dugout is used for US President’s safety during terrorist attacks. Here, the protesters shouted curse at Donald Trump outside.
Donald Trump emerged in public on June 1 evening to announce he was ready to use the Insurrection Act of 1807 and deploy the army “to stop rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property”. Trump also criticised governors for not reining in protesters in their states. He called it their “weakness”. His aggressive posturing has further fuelled protests.
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Some governors have too added to the anger of protests with their comments. Minnesota governor Tim Waiz has blamed outsiders for violence and vandalism in the Twin City. He said 80 per cent of protesters are from the outside. However, an analysis by the state radio news found not more than 20 per cent outsiders among the protesters.
Protests have reached Europe. Protesters took to streets in London in the UK, Berlin in Germany and Amsterdam in the Netherlands demanding justice for George Floyd. In some video post on social media, groups of white people knelt down before African Americans apologizing for racism by the white supremacists.
Many observers have criticised the US leadership and police forces for inept handling of the situation. The rioting poses serious challenge to administration in the US, already hit worst by coronavirus pandemic.
Police are an automatic target of the protesters. Some police officers have openly criticised Trump with Houston police chief saying, “If the US President has nothing constructive to say, he should keep his mouth shut.”
Source INDIA TODAY