Protests have erupted in several American cities, including Chicago and Minneapolis, over the murder, this Monday, of a 46-year-old African-American man, George Floyd. White police officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to pin a handcuffed Floyd to the ground, in an incident that was recorded on video.
A bystander video that circulated on social media shows the white officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, while Floyd is pinned face-down on the street. Floyd can be heard repeatedly pleading with the officer to get up.
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“Please man, I can’t breathe,” Floyd says. “I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.”
Within minutes, the video shows Floyd closing his eyes and no longer speaking. The officer appears to keep his knee on Floyd’s neck, even as onlookers begin shouting that he isn’t moving and demand that officers help him. The video shows a second officer nearby, looking in the direction of onlookers.
Police called for an ambulance but Floyd died shortly after arriving at a hospital, the Minneapolis Police Department said in a release.
He was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to the medical examiner. The explosive footage, recorded by a bystander and shared widely on social media early Tuesday, led to community outrage, an F.B.I. civil rights investigation and the firing of the officer and three colleagues who were also at the scene.
On Wednesday, the Minneapolis Police Department identified the fired officers as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
Mr. Floyd’s relatives have said that the officers should be charged with murder. “They treated him worse than they treat animals,” Philonise Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s brother, said on CNN. “They took a life — they deserve life.”Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis was quick to condemn the officers’ actions, and on Wednesday, he called on prosecutors to file charges against the officer who had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.
“I want to see a charge take place,” Mr. Frey said at a news conference, without specifying what charge he thought was warranted. “I want to see justice for George Floyd.”Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat whose congressional district includes Minneapolis, tweeted on Wednesday that the officer should be charged with murder.
Mr. Floyd grew up in Houston and was a high school sports star. He lived in St. Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb.
Community members and leaders have expressed outrage over the incident, with many drawing comparisons to Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who died in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by New York City police and pleading: “I can’t breathe.” That incident sparked nationwide protests.
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” Minneapolis Mayor Frey said in a Facebook post.
Monday night’s incident comes on the heels of several cases of Black men and women being killed by police or former law enforcement across the U.S.
According to the Washington Post Fatal Force database, more than 1,000 people have been shot and killed by police in the last year. According to the database, Black Americans are killed by police at a disproportionate rate.
African American adults are nearly six times as likely to be imprisoned or jailed than white adults, according to the Sentencing Project watchdog group.
These racial disparities have given rise to Black Lives Matter, which was founded in 2013 and seeks to end police violence and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.
*With agency reports