Parts of Minneapolis were still smoldering Thursday morning as the city awakened from a second night of violent clashes between police and thousands of protesters, enraged by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of four officers Monday.
As the Star Tribune reports, Wednesday night’s protests erupted in violence in certain parts of the city. While protests outside of the South Side police station were mostly peaceful, around E. Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue, long-simmering anger at the police and lack of accountability came to a head. Some protesters were filmed damaging property and taking items out of stores, while MPD launched flash-bang grenades, sprayed tear gas and shot other projectiles at demonstrators.
One person was fatally shot during the protests. According to the Star Tribune, the suspect in the shooting is a pawn shop store owner who suspected the victim was burglarizing his store. Police have not yet released numbers on the number of people arrested Wednesday night.
The uprising in Minneapolis over the last two days is a direct response to the death of Floyd, who was originally detained over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill outside of a Cup Foods deli on Monday night. During the arrest, a white police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes as Floyd and bystanders pleaded for the officer to get off him.
“I cannot breathe! I cannot breathe!” Floyd cried out as he lay face down on the ground. “Don’t kill me!”
Floyd went unconscious during the arrest, dying in the hospital hours later.
But tensions between MPD and the community have long run high, particularly after the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark in 2015. Police officers never faced any charges for the killing.
Protests were not limited to Minneapolis on Wednesday night. In Memphis, Tenn., and Los Angeles, hundreds marched in solidarity with Floyd and angry Minneapolis residents. In L.A., dozens of protesters blocked both sides of the 101 Freeway. Police confirmed that none of the LA demonstrators were arrested; in Memphis, police clad in riot gear arrested at least two protesters.
Earlier on Wednesday night, Mayor Jacob Frey called for Officer Derek Chauvin, the cop who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, to be charged in his killing.
“I’ve wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” Frey said. “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now. And I cannot come up with a good answer to that.”
Frey noted that the move Chauvin used on Floyd is not authorized by MPD.
“We are not talking about a split-second decision that was made incorrectly,” said the mayor. “There’s somewhere around 300 seconds in those five minutes, every one of which the officer could have turned back, every second of which he could have removed his knee from George Floyd’s neck.”
The decision to prosecute the officers lies in the hands of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. In a statement, the attorney’s office said it was working expeditiously with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which investigates most police shootings and in-custody deaths, and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner to gather and review evidence “in the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd.”
Freeman declined to press charges in Clark’s killing in 2015.
The FBI is also working with the BCA on the investigation, meaning federal officials also have the authority to make an arrest. The FBI promised a “robust investigation” into Floyd’s death, calling the case a “top priority” for the bureau.
All four police involved in Floyd’s death have now been identified. Officers Chauvin and Tou Thao, shown prominently in the viral video of Floyd’s arrest, both have disciplinary records. Chauvin was involved in three police shootings prior to Floyd’s arrest, while Thao has been the subject of multiple complaints, including one instance of excessive force. Both are considered veterans of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng were also involved in Floyd’s arrest.
Police have not released bodycam footage of the arrest, during which officers claimed Floyd had physically resisted. Footage from a nearby store showed Floyd exiting his car with police, being compliant as he was handcuffed and led by officers to the sidewalk.