The United States city of Minneapolis was bracing for a third night of protests on Thursday as anger over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, intensified.
Floyd died on Monday after a white police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for several minutes.
A video of the incident shows Floyd pleading with officers, saying “I can’t breathe” before going motionless with the officer’s knee still on Floyd’s neck.
The four officers involved were swiftly fired, but Floyd’s family, community leaders and residents are calling for arrests to be made.
“These officers, they need to be arrested right now, the people want justice right now,” Philonese Floyd, George’s brother, told CNN on Thursday morning.
“They need to be convicted and get the death penalty,” Philonese Floyd said.
A small group of protesters “occupied” the space outside the home of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to demand criminal charges for the four officers involved.
“We aren’t going anywhere until Mike Freeman prosecutes and charges the officers,” protesters said in a Facebook Live video, with at least one tent put up on the sidewalk outside the county attorney’s home.
Protesters gather outside the home of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man [Eric Miller/Reuters]
Freeman’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that it was was “shocked and saddened by what appeared in a recent video”.
It said it would make a decision on prosecution after it receives the completed findings of the investigations by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and FBI.
Freeman said on Thursday that his office would work through the case “as expeditiously, as thoroughly as justice demands”.
“We just can’t rush this,” Freeman said. “These need to be done right. Please give me and give me the United States attorney time to do this right and we will bring you justice.”
‘No justice, no peace’
Hundreds protested Monday and Tuesday night, chanting “I can’t breathe” and “no justice, no peace”.
Floyd’s death has been compared that of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in 2014 after police put him in a chokehold. Some of Garner’s last words were “I can’t breathe”.
While the protests have initially been peaceful, they have descended into chaos with reports of looting, arson and vandalism.
Police have used tear gas and non-lethal projectiles to disperse the crowds.
Community leaders on Thursday urged protesters to remain peaceful, largely blaming reports of looting and vandalism on “outsiders”.
“We cannot allow outsiders or our own Minneapolis residents to destroy our city,” said Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins.
“We want to work together to ensure that people have their voices heard in a safe manner,” she said during a news conference alongside Mayor Jacob Frey.
Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the US [Eric Miller/Reuters]
For his part, Frey, who has called for the arrest of the officer who pinned Floyd down, said the city’s anger is “not only understandable, it’s right”.
“‘What we’ve seen over the last two days and the emotion-ridden conflict over the last night is the result of so much built-up anger and sadness … that has been ingrained in our black community – not just because of the five minutes of horror, but for 400 years,” he said.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz called in the US National Guard on Thursday to support local authorities as they braced for the night’s demonstrations.
Protesters had already started to gather in Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon, with several actions taking place throughout the city, according to community leaders.
‘Your violence has brought this resistance’
Several prominent activists and sports stars have expressed outrage over Floyd’s death and support for those protesting.
Former National Football League star Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem at US football games to protest police brutality, tweeted that “we have to fight back!”
When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction.
The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance.
We have the right to fight back!
Rest in Power George Floyd
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) May 28, 2020
“When civility leads to death, revolting is the only logical reaction,” Kaepernick said in support of the protesters. “The cries for peace will rain down, and when they do, they will land on deaf ears, because your violence has brought this resistance.”
The memorial of George Floyd is seen during the second day of protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota [Jordan Strowder/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]
In a joint statement on Thursday, US Attorney Erica MacDonald And FBI Special Agent In Charge Rainer Drolshagen said that the US Department of Justice has made the investigation into Floyd’s death a “top priority”.
“The federal investigation will determine whether the actions by the involved former Minneapolis Police Department officers violated federal law,” the statement read.
US President Donald Trump, who in the past has been accused of stoking racial tensions, on Thursday said he and his administration are “very much involved”.
He said the video of Floyd’s arrest was a “very shocking sight”, but he declined to say whether he believed the officers should be charged.