The Minneapolis police officer accused of killing a handcuffed African-American man was charged with murder Friday, but the move failed to quell surging anger as tense protests erupted in cities across the nation.
Demonstrations raged from New York to Los Angeles, and from Atlanta where police cruisers were set ablaze, to Washington where protesters faced off with Secret Service agents outside the White House.In Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, the white officer filmed kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed and unarmed George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, was charged with one count of third-degree murder — unintentionally causing a death — and one count of negligent manslaughter.
“This case is now ready, and we have charged it,” said county prosecutor Mike Freeman amid outrage over the latest death of an African American in police custody.
But the charges failed to calm a shaken nation whose deep wounds over racial inequality have been torn open anew.
Authorities imposed a curfew Friday in Minneapolis after three nights of violent protests left parts of the city in flames.
But protesters defiantly remained on the streets, sometimes dodging tear gas canisters fired into crowds by police.
Protester Naeema Jakes said she needed to be on the streets so she could verbally confront officers.“I need you to look in my eyes and feel me,” Jakes said. “This is pain, this is hurt.”
The 46-year-old Floyd’s relatives — who spoke Friday with President Donald Trump — welcomed news of the arrest as a “step on the road to justice,” but said they hoped for tougher charges and action against the other officers involved in Floyd’s detention and death.
Freeman said the three other officers were also under investigation, and that he anticipated charges.
All four were fired from the police department Tuesday after video surfaced of Monday’s arrest.
– Troops deployed –
The announcement of charges came hours after hundreds of troops were deployed to the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul to try to prevent a fourth night of violent protests.
Scores of buildings have been burned and looted across the so-called Twin Cities, including a police station associated with the four officers.
Mayor Jacob Frey declared a night-long curfew Friday and Saturday as protesters appeared on the streets in Minneapolis again Friday.
Some chanted “I can’t breathe” — Floyd’s words as Chauvin’s knee pressed on his neck.
Police were out in force in other cities but protests took hold in Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Portland, Las Vegas and Des Moines.
– Charges criticized –
Floyd’s family issued a statement acknowledging Chauvin’s arrest, but calling the charges against him insufficient.
“We want a first-degree murder charge. And we want to see the other officers arrested,” they said in a statement.
“The pain that the black community feels over this murder and what it reflects about the treatment of black people in America is raw and is spilling out onto streets across America.”
The third-degree charge though reflected the official autopsy saying that even though Chauvin held his knee to Floyd’s neck for two minutes and 53 seconds after he became “non-responsive,” Floyd did not die of asphyxiation or strangulation.
After attacking the protesters as “thugs” and threatening to send in federal troops to deal harshly with them, Trump shifted tone later Friday, announcing he had called Floyd’s family to express his “sorrow.”
“I understand the hurt, I understand the pain. People have really been through a lot,” he said.
“The family of George is entitled to justice and the people of Minnesota are entitled to live in safety.”
– ‘Open wound’ –
Former president Barack Obama said in a statement that he shared the “anguish” of millions of Americans over Floyd’s death.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who is challenging Trump for the White House in November’s election, also spoke to Floyd’s family.
He called for justice and said it was time to heal the “open wound” of systemic racism in the United States.
Floyd’s death is reminiscent of the demise of Eric Garner, who died in police custody in New York in 2014.
“Now we have to be here for George Floyd,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told protesters in New York on Friday.
“Enough is enough. They have to stop coming into our neighborhoods and brutalizing and terrorizing and murdering our young men and women.”
Many Americans have also been seething over the February death of African American Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging in the southern state of Georgia when he was confronted by a retired police officer and his son, who shot Arbery.