Washington: Less than 24 hours after a now-viral video surfaced showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed black man who said he couldn’t breathe and later died, the department took swift action Tuesday and fired four of the officers involved. But for many, including prominent politicians in both parties, that wasn’t enough.
Numerous calls for a thorough investigation and possibly criminal charges rang out Tuesday as the country reeled from the death of George Floyd - yet another instance of a deadly encounter between police and an unarmed person of color.
“Firing the officers that killed #GeorgeFloyd was the right first move,” tweeted Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. “The second? Arrest them.”
Former vice-president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, tweeted that Floyd “deserved better and his family deserves justice.”
“His life mattered,” Biden wrote, adding that the officers who were fired “must be held responsible for their egregious actions.”
On Tuesday night, Floyd’s family members demanded that the officers involved face murder charges.
“They need to be charged with murder because what they did was murder,” Tera Brown, Floyd’s cousin, told CNN’s Don Lemon. “And almost the whole world has witnessed that because somebody was gracious enough to record it.”
“They need to pay for what they did,” she continued.
The outrage began bubbling early Tuesday after a video of Floyd’s arrest captured by a bystander was shared on social media. The roughly 10-minute clip showed Floyd in visible distress as a white Minneapolis Police Department officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck.
“I cannot breathe,” Floyd could be heard repeatedly saying in between making loud rasping sounds.
By Tuesday afternoon, the four officers involved had been terminated and two separate agencies, including the FBI, had been called in to investigate the incident. But those actions did little to quell the anger brewing in Minnesota and nationwide.
Protesters who flooded the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday evening were joined in spirit by countless politicians, activists, celebrities and athletes on social media demanding the officers be held accountable and decrying police brutality. Hashtags dedicated to Floyd continued to dominate Twitter well into Wednesday morning as many voiced their frustrations and rallied for change.
“George Floyd should be alive today,” tweeted Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. “We should - we must, if we are to survive as a nation - change this familiar and gruesome reality. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, we’re ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ Enough.”
Booker’s words were echoed by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., among many others. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., retweeted Scott’s call for the officers to be arrested.
Scores of other public figures, ranging from Madonna to LeBron James, also used their platforms to call attention to the fatal incident, with many sharing photos of Floyd or video of the incident paired with emotional messages.
“You deserved your breath, your dignity, your life. Not to die in the street, murdered by a white cop’s knee on your neck,” tweeted director Ava DuVernay. “You deserve our tears, our prayers, our rage, our action.”
In a follow-up tweet, DuVernay shared a post from Minneapolis Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey saying that firing the officers was “the right call.”
“Arrested and convicted of murder is the right call,” DuVernay wrote.
Former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho voiced his discontent in a video posted on Twitter.
“I feel sick,” Acho said. “We’re tired. We have no more tears to cry. We have no more characters to tweet.”
A number of people, including James, saw the Minneapolis officer’s kneeling position and were reminded of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick publicly taking a knee during the national anthem starting in 2016 to protest police brutality and other social issues. Kaepernick, who parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017 and has not played professionally since then, alleges that he was blacklisted by the league because of his decision to protest.
“Do you understand NOW!!??!!??” James wrote in an Instagram post that featured a side-by-side images of the cop and Kaepernick.
As the furore continued on social media Tuesday evening, tensions boiled over on the streets in Minneapolis as protesters clashed with officers outside the police department’s Third Precinct.
Protesters shattered the building’s glass door and tagged its exterior with spray painted graffiti, according to videos and photos shared to social media. Squad cars were similarly vandalized.
Police in riot gear faced off with protesters throwing rocks and water bottles, the Star Tribune reported. In response, officers fired tear gas, flash-bang devices and nonlethal bullets at the large crowd, according to the Star Tribune.
At least one journalist covering the protest tweeted that he had been struck in the thigh by one of the bullets, posting a photos of the round and the sizable welt that had formed on his leg.