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WORLD | 03-06-2020 17:46

Three more officers charged in George Floyd’s death, world calls for justice

Prosecutors charge US police officer accused of asphyxiating George Floyd with second-degree murder, with three others accused of aiding and abetting murder. Meanwhile, protesters in cities all over the world call for justice.

Prosecutors are charging a Minneapolis police officer accused of pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck with second-degree murder, and for the first time are leveling charges against three other officers.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired May 26 and initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers were also fired but weren’t immediately charged.

The Star Tribune reports that Attorney General Keith Ellison will charge Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao with aiding and abetting murder. The newspaper cited multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the case that spoke on condition of anonymity and an attorney who represents one of the officers told The Associated Press the report was accurate.

These charges come nine days after George Floyd was killed, and after days of civil unrest throughout US cities. Protests have occurred all over the country and attention is being increasingly drawn to local police force’s responses to mostly peaceful protesters and to the journalists covering them. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Minneapolis Police and the Minnesota State Patrol, alleging police have violated the rights of journalists covering the protests in response to the death of George Floyd.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Minnesota on Wednesday, alleges a “pattern and practice of conduct by law enforcement,” which the organisation says, “tramples on the Constitution.”

The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff is Jared Goyette, a freelance journalist who says he was shot in the face by a rubber bullet fired by police. The suit outlines the number of journalists who have been arrested or injured by police since the demonstrations began last week.

The lawsuit also alleges police have interfered with news coverage and have continued to “target and intimidate the press by firing less-lethal ballistics designed for riot control directly at members of the media.”

The ACLU has also vowed to bring lawsuits against police departments across the U.S. who arrest, target or attack journalists.

Meanwhile, cities throughout the US and the world are responding to the brutal killing, calling for justice and expressing support for the communities affected by police brutality.

London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the death of George Floyd was “inexcusable” and he understands why people are protesting.

In his first public comments on the turmoil roiling the US, Johnson told lawmakers “what happened in the United States was appalling, it was inexcusable, we all saw it on our screens and I perfectly understand people’s right to protest what took place.”

He added “protest should take place in a lawful and reasonable way.”

Johnson, who has sought to nurture close ties with President Donald Trump as he leads the UK out of the European union, deflected calls from the opposition to suspend exports of tear gas and rubber bullets to the United States.

Johnson says all British arms exports complied with the country’s human rights obligations, “and the UK is possibly the most scrupulous country in that respect in the world.”

Most British police officers do not carry guns, though armed units have been involved in several fatal shootings in recent years.

Washington DC

Washington's Mayor Muriel Bowser says her administration is preparing for a potential legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s authority over security operations in the District of Columbia.

Trump directed what he characterised as a full-scale federal response on Monday night to quell protests over the death of George Floyd. That included forces from a variety of federal agencies and the entire 1,700-strong contingent of the DC National Guard. Military helicopters repeatedly buzzed low over protesters, kicking up clouds of debris, and guardsmen armed with long guns were stationed throughout the city.

Bowser said Wednesday that she had consulted with Washington Attorney General Karl Racine on the issue, adding that her administration had only requested about 100 unarmed guardsmen.

Berlin

The UN’s top human rights official called for grievances to be heard on “endemic and structural racism” at the heart of the protests in the United States.

Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, says addressing those grievances is necessary for the US to “move on from its tragic history of racism and violence.”

While calling for protesters to express their views peacefully, she also urged US leaders to unequivocally condemn racism and “reflect on what has driven people to boiling point.”

Bachelet’s office also cited “at least 200 reported incidents of journalists covering the protests being physically attacked, intimidated or arbitrarily arrested, despite their press credentials being clearly visible.”

Detroit, Michigan

Leaders of Detroit’s automakers and other business executives are pledging to stand with the black community and support peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd and police treatment of African Americans.

The group includes the heads of General Motors, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler North America, Quicken Loans and Ilitch Holdings. The statement Wednesday from the group follows demonstrations and unrest around the US since Floyd’s May 25 death.

The group also said it “condemns the acts of injustice” in the February 23 fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by a white father and son in Glynn County, Georgia, and the March 13 shooting death of Breonna Taylor by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment.

Stockholm, Sweden

Thousands of people in the Nordic countries have gathered in support of protesters in the US over the death of George Floyd.

With signs reading “I can’t breathe” or “Make racism bad again” more than a thousand Swedes met despite bans on gatherings of over 50 people due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Stockholm protest was mostly peaceful, but police have confirmed the use of pepper spray and one arrest, and that reports of isolated confrontations continue.

In Finland’s capital Helsinki, around 3,000 people attended a protest that dispersed an hour later as the number of participants exceeded the 500 maximum currently allowed under Finland’s coronavirus gathering restrictions.

Liberty, Missouri

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Wednesday accused President Donald Trump of “fanning the flames” of violence amid days of unrest across the nation after the death of George Floyd.

Although protests Tuesday night in St. Louis County were calm, Page’s comments came after four St. Louis police officers were shot and a retired city police captain was killed during violence Monday night and early Tuesday,

Page said at a news conference “the president has fanned the flames, treating this unrest as if it were a reality show.” He said criminals have “hijacked” peaceful protests that rightly denounce decades of law enforcement mistreatment of minorities.

St. Louis police said more than 70 businesses in the city were ransacked or broken into, including a pawn shop where former police Capt. David Dorn was fatally shot during a break-in.

On Wednesday, Trump posted a message on Twitter praising Dorn, who served 38 years on the force.

Madrid

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has called the response of the US government to the outcry over police brutality and injustice against African Americans “authoritarian.”

Sánchez referred to the wave of demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s killing on May 25 in Minneapolis when he spoke during debate on the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak at the Spanish parliament’s Lower House.

Sánchez, who leads a left-wing coalition, says “I share and stand in solidarity with the demonstrations that are taking place in the United States."

St. Paul, Minnesota

Members of the Minnesota People of Color and Indigenous Caucus along with Democratic leaders of the Minnesota House are calling for policing reform during the upcoming special legislative session.

The proposals by state lawmakers include bolstering the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s independence in police killing investigations, citizen oversight of law enforcement, and removing a state ban on local residency requirements by officers.

Caucus members are calling for immediate access to legislative funding to help rebuild Minneapolis and St. Paul communities damaged by riots following the death of George Floyd. The caucus also called for the arrests of all officers involved in Floyd’s death.

The Minnesota Legislature is expected to convene for a special session by June 12 to extend the emergency declared by Governor Tim Walz in mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Athens

Greek police have fired tear gas to disperse youths who attacked them outside the US Embassy in Athens during a protest over the killing of George Floyd.

Police said the violence Wednesday came towards the end of an otherwise peaceful demonstration by about 4,000 people that was organised by left-wing groups and anarchists. Protesters at the tail-end of the march threw petrol bombs and stones at police.

No injuries or arrests were reported.

A similar protest is scheduled in Athens on Thursday.

Rotterdam

A protest demonstration in the Netherlands had to be cut short because crowds became too big and would have made social distancing measures impossible.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb had already moved the protest over the death of George Floyd to a more open space instead of the city center. But as thousands sought to converge and the crowds swelled at the site near the Maas River, authorities first called on people to stay away and then moved in early to end the peaceful protest.

Poznan, Poland

Dozens of young people walked in an anti-racist march on Wednesday in Poland’s western city of Poznan in response to the killing of George Floyd.

Mostly clad in black, the protesters carried signs with “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” written on them. They walked to the US Consulate and then to a downtown square where they lay face down on the ground, just like the handcuffed Floyd lay pleading for air as a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Also Wednesday, US Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, apologized on Twitter to Warsaw residents whose flowers and candles placed before the embassy in Floyd’s memory had been removed. Mosbacher called it a “misunderstanding.”

Portland, Oregon 

The police chief in Portland, Oregon issued a plea Wednesday to the city’s residents to help its leaders stop the violence that has engulfed the city for five consecutive nights in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

Chief Jami Resch said at a news conference that a peaceful march and rally Tuesday that attracted more than 10,000 people was marred when several hundred people broke off late and confronted police officers guarding a building that holds police headquarters and a sheriff’s detention center.

The repeated nights of mayhem have rattled even liberal Portland, which has such a storied history of protest that the late president George H. W. Bush dubbed it “Little Beirut.”

Seattle, Washington

Large crowds marched through Seattle and demonstrations were mostly peaceful until late in the night, when Seattle police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse a crowd near a police precinct.

Seattle police say some people in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood began throwing objects at officers. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan addressed hundreds of demonstrators and encouraged them to keep marching and keep it peaceful.

“Your voices holding me accountable are important and you should continue to raise them,” Durkan told those assembled outside the city’s Emergency Operations Center downtown. Durkan and protest leaders planned to meet Wednesday.

Atlanta, Georgia 

Large, peaceful protests in Atlanta were marked by pockets of confrontation between protesters and police ahead of the curfew on Tuesday night.

Hundreds lingered on the streets of downtown ahead of the 9 p.m. curfew imposed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Authorities used armored vehicles to form a cordon at the state capitol.

Near Centennial Olympic Park, where much of the protests and unrest have centered, National Guard troops fired tear gas and moved in on a group shortly after curfew fell. The crowd quickly dispersed, and television footage showed police leading some people away in zip ties.

Police say 52 arrests were made Tuesday, bringing the total arrests in Atlanta to 439 over five days of protests since Friday.

Phoenix, Arizona

Thousands of people participated in peaceful protests on Tuesday night with no arrests, according to police.

One crowd marched in the heart of downtown and another gathered at the state capitol about a mile to the west.

The protests ended early in the evening, with most participants leaving by the 8 p.m. start of a statewide curfew ordered Sunday by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

It was the sixth consecutive night of protests, with no reported arrests in Phoenix for the second straight night.

Florida

Mostly peaceful rallies in Tampa and St. Petersburg took a turn late Tuesday when police used smoke grenades, non lethal rounds, pepper canisters and other measures to disperse crowds.

Protesters fled, screaming and angry, and police made dozens of arrests. They briefly detained two Tampa Bay Times reporters who were covering the events, the newspaper reported.

In St. Petersburg, a group of protesters went to police headquarters late Tuesday, where tensions heightened.

Officers told the crowd to leave the area, and then launched smoke and what appeared to be flash bangs at the crowd, the Times reported. Police and Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies closed in on the crowd, arresting several. A reporter was briefly detained.

Richmond Virginia

Richmond Police have denied accusations an officer spit on a detained protester after a video showing the alleged incident was shared on social media.

The incident “did not happen as the activists have claimed” and a slow-motion analysis of the video “shows the officers spitting on the grass and not on the detainee,” the Richmond Police Department says in multiple Twitter posts Tuesday night.

A version of the slow-motion video obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch focuses on the officer closest to the handcuffed detainee and follows the spit’s trajectory.

Police say officers were frequently coughing and spitting due to “exposure to tear gas,” amid demonstrations in the city.

-TIMES/AP

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