MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Protesters clashed with riot police firing tear gas for a second night in Minneapolis on Wednesday in an outpouring of rage over the death of a black man seen in a widely circulated video growing limp and lifeless as a white officer knelt on his neck.
The video, taken by an onlooker to Monday night’s fatal encounter between police and George Floyd, 46, showed him lying face down and handcuffed, gasping for air and groaning for help, repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”
The second day of demonstrations, accompanied by looting, began hours after Mayor Jacob Frey called on prosecutors to file criminal charges against the white policeman shown in the video clip pinning Floyd to the street.
The policeman and three fellow officers who participated in Floyd’s apprehension, were dismissed from the police department on Tuesday as the FBI opened an investigation of his arrest.
Floyd, reportedly suspected of trying to pass counterfeit bills at a corner eatery, was pronounced dead later that evening at a hospital.
Hundreds of protesters, many wearing face coverings, filled streets around the police department’s Third Precinct station late on Wednesday, about a half mile from where Floyd had been arrested.
The crowd grew into the thousands as night fell and the protest evolved into a standoff outside of the station, where police in riot gear formed barricade lines while protesters taunted them from behind makeshift barricades of their own.
Police, some taking positions on rooftops, used tear gas, plastic bullets and concussion grenades to keep the crowds at bay, while protesters pelted police with rocks, water bottles and other projectiles. Some threw tear gas canisters back at the officers.
Local television news footage from a helicopter flying over the area showed dozens of individuals looting a Target (TGT.N
An auto parts store also was set ablaze, media reported.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had urged the FBI investigation “to be expedited,” saying he appreciated “all the work done by local law enforcement.”
“My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!” he added.
“I CAN’T BREATHE”
The video of Monday’s deadly confrontation between police and Floyd has stirred a national outcry and led Mayor Frey to call on Wednesday for Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman “to charge the arresting officer in this case.”
The city identified the four officers involved on Wednesday as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. It did not identify the officer who had his knee against Floyd’s throat, and provided no further information.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union representing the city’s police force, said in a statement the officers involved were cooperating with investigators and it was “not time to rush to judgment.”
“We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report,” the union said, asking the community to remain calm.
Frey did not specify what charge he thought was appropriate for the officer, but said he has relayed his wish to Freeman.
On Tuesday, the County Attorney’s Office said it would make a charging decision after state investigators and the FBI conclude their inquiries.
The case is reminiscent of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in New York City who died after being put in a police chokehold.
Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement calling attention to a wave of killings of African-Americans at the hands of police using unjustified lethal force.
Reporting by Eric Miller in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio, Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates