On Tuesday night, Minneapolis police in riot gear clashed with protesters demanding justice in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for at least 8 minutes.
CBS News reports that police used smoke bombs, tear gas, and flash grenades against the demonstrators, who gathered at the site where Floyd was violently arrested on Monday. Thousands of protesters marched two miles from the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue to the Minneapolis Police’s 3rd Precinct building, chanting “It could’ve been me,” and “I can’t breathe”—a reference to both Floyd’s final pleas for help and to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, a New York man who died after an officer put him in an illegal chokehold.
According to CBS Minnesota, once protesters reached the precinct, a small group of demonstrators spray-painted squad cars and shattered windows. Police responded with tear gas, prompting those protesting to rinse themselves with milk or hide behind nearby shopping carts. Videos from the protests also showed demonstrators getting hit by rubber bullets.
As of Wednesday morning, there were no confirmed reports of protesters being arrested, but many on social media were quick to point out the difference in police response between the “Liberate Minnesota” protests that took place in the city weeks ago—comprising mostly white demonstrators—and the George Floyd protests.
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar criticized the police response, tweeting, “Shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed protesters when there are children present should never be tolerated. Ever. What is happening tonight in our city is shameful. Police need to exercise restraint, and our community needs space to heal.”
Video of Floyd’s arrest went viral on Tuesday, generating a massive public outcry against Minneapolis police. Four officers, responding to a call about a forgery—a fake $20 bill, according to The Today Show—confronted Floyd outside of the Cup Foods deli because he matched the description of the suspect. The video that circulated online, taken by a bystander, shows Floyd laying face-down on the street, a white cop kneeling on his neck as Floyd begs the officer to get off him.
“I cannot breathe! I cannot breathe!” Floyd pleaded with the officers. “Don’t kill me!”
Floyd eventually lost consciousness, dying hours later at the hospital.
MPD fired the four officers involved in the arrest, including Officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck. The FBI is now investigating the arrest, which MPD says came as a result of the department’s own request.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called the decision to fire the officers “the right call.”
New footage of the arrest shows Floyd complying with officers as they handcuff him and take him out of his vehicle, appearing to contradict the initial police report that stated he “physically resisted” the arrest.
Protesters who spoke to CBS Minnesota on Tuesday night said they were pleased with the firings, but demanded murder charges for the arresting officers.
Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd echoed those calls in an interview with the Today show on Wednesday morning.
Bridgett Floyd, who says she has yet to watch the horrifying video of her brother’s arrest, called his death “heartbreaking.” She wore an “I can’t breathe” shirt to the interview.
“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did,” she told Today anchor Hoda Kotb. “They murdered my brother. He was crying for help.” Floyd added that she didn’t want the officers to be able to relocate and pick up more police work in another county or state.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump also pushed for greater police accountability, citing the inaccurate police report and the new video that shows Floyd’s compliance with the arrest.
“[The police] would have swept it under the rug,” Crump said.
Bridgette Floyd said she remained hopeful that murder charges—and a conviction—would come.
“Faith is something that me and my brother always talked about, because he was a God-fearing man,” Floyd said. “I believe that justice will be served. I have enough faith to stand on it.”