As protesters burned the American flag and the White House went on lockdown, thousands of District residents took to the streets to express their outrage over the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of officers entrusted to “protect and serve” the citizens of Minneapolis.
The District counted among more than 30 U.S. cities in which large demonstrations have continued for nearly a week after Derek Chauvin, the recently fired policeman videotaped as he pressed his knee into a handcuffed and defenseless Floyd for nine minutes, was arrested on the relatively minor charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Protests have erupted in the Twins Cities since the May 25 incident and have spilled over enforce in U.S. strongholds including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey and former President Barack Obama remain among the higher-profile Americans who have publicly denounced Floyd’s murder, while Jamie Foxx and former basketball star Stephen Jackson, attended a rally days ago held in Minneapolis.
“We are standing in solidarity with our people in Minneapolis,” said Joella Roberts, who organized a rally in the District.
“I want to remind you that the system that George Floyd was heading to was just as deadly,” she said, referring to the criminal justice system.
City officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul called on the National Guard while state police lined the streets sporting full riot gear. An 8 p.m. curfew was ordered and an African American CNN reporter was arrested while giving a live report from a hotspot of protests.
In California, demonstrators closed the 101 freeway in San Jose as marchers took to the streets in San Francisco and Oakland. Police vehicles and buildings were torched in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, in New York, where the novel coronavirus hat hit America the hardest and where residents have remained reluctant to gather outdoors, angry protestors jammed city streets.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined an extensive list of politicians condemning the action of Chauvin, 44, who, along with three other officers, were videotaped using excessive force on Floyd.
On Friday, May 29, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
“This is not a new story, this is a continuing narrative,” Cuomo said. “This is just another chapter in the book called: Injustice and inequality in America.”
Obama released a statement weighing in on the injustice regularly experienced by African Americans.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal,’” Obama said. “If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better. It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done.
“But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a new normal in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts,” he said.
Margaret Huang, president, and chief executive officer of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the organization joins with its allies in condemning the recent police killings of Floyd, Tony McDade, Sean Reed and Breonna Taylor.
“Following the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery by a former police officer, the impact of these murders reaches across the country and there must be accountability,” she said. “It is absolutely imperative that local police departments and district attorneys investigate, arrest and prosecute officers and all who violate the rights of the people who live in the communities they are charged to serve.
“Equally important, law enforcement must stop responding to peaceful protest of police killings with more violence,” Huang said. “Police are obligated to protect those in the community, and punishing peaceful protest is a gross abuse of human rights. We stand with millions of people across the country who are rightfully outraged by the killing of unarmed Black people, the lack of responsiveness, the lack of action and President Trump calling for violence against those demanding justice for Mr. Floyd’s death.”
Florida Rep. Val Demings, an African American and a former Orlando police chief, wrote an op-ed which said, “as a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?”
“As law enforcement officers, we took an oath to protect and serve. And those who forgot — or who never understood that oath in the first place — must go,” she wrote. “That includes those who would stand by as they witness misconduct by a fellow officer.”