Monday, June 14, 2021
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America On Fire
By Thandisizwe Chimurenga, Contributing Writer
Published June 4, 2020

A protester carries the carries a U.S. flag upside, a sign of distress, next to a burning building Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A police car is set on fire during protest Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California for the police killing of George Floyd. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, the fire next time.” ~Traditional Black spiritual

All 50 of the United States have seen protests and more than 10,000 people have been arrested, cities have enacted curfews and several states and the District of Columbia have called up the National Guard following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of police [last Monday] in Minneapolis. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that Derek Chauvin, the officer accused of causing the death of George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, has been charged with second-degree murder and three other former officers who were on the scene –  Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Chauvin was arrested last Tuesday and charged last Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter and his former colleagues were not charged at all, leading to the intensity of protests against Floyd in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

Locally, Los Angeles enters its [Fourth] night of a county-wide curfew imposed after weekend protests in downtown and Beverly Hills turned violent with riot-clad police and sheriff’s deputies firing rubber bullets at peaceful demonstrators.

George Floyd (File Photo)

The mugshots of Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao. (AP photo)

The 46-year-old Floyd died after his arrest on a charge of allegedly passing a counterfeit bill. In a now globally-seen video clip, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is kneeling on the neck of a prone and handcuffed Floyd for approximately eight minutes.

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Floyd can be heard telling the officers he cannot breathe and calling out for his mother before eventually becoming unresponsive.

Dr. Michael Baden, well known forensic pathologist, ruled on Monday that Floyd’s death was “homicide by asphyxia.” Baden had been retained by Floyd’s family to conduct an independent autopsy following preliminary findings of the Hennepin County medical examiner that “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”

“What we found is consistent with what people saw,” Dr. Baden said in an emailed release. “There is no other health issue that could cause or contribute to the death. Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That’s not true.”

Dr. Baden continued, “The autopsy shows that Mr. Floyd had no underlying medical problem that caused or contributed to his death,” Dr. Baden was the chief medical examiner for the City of New York in the late 1970s.

In one week’s time protests from Minneapolis to New York to Atlanta to Los Angeles, New Zealand, London, Iran and Berlin have turned out a diversity of thousands of people outraged at Floyd’s death.

Demonstrators march as they protest the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

 

Protesters walk along a street during a demonstration Monday, June 1, 2020, in Atlanta over the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

As reported by Al Jazeera news agency, “The European Union is ‘shocked and appalled’ by the death of George Floyd in police custody, the bloc’s top diplomat said, calling it ‘an abuse of power’ and warning against further excessive use of force.”

“”Like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd … all societies must remain vigilant against the excessive use of force,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told reporters.”

On Monday, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressed Floyd’s killing via social media in a Facebook post.

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“Black people, the world over, are shocked and distraught by the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in the United States of America. It carried with it an all too painful familiarity, and an ugly reminder. It cannot be right that, in the 21st century, the

United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism.”

“On behalf of the people of Ghana, I express my deep condolences to the family and loved ones of the late George Floyd.”

“We stand with our kith and kin in America in these difficult and trying times, and we hope that the unfortunate, tragic death of George Floyd will inspire a lasting change in how America confronts head on the problems of hate and racism.”

Protesters also registered their anger over other deaths at the hands of current and former police such as Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Florida and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia.

Minneapolis protests over Floyd’s death began last Tuesday evening after police chief Medaria Arredondo fired Chauvin as well as three other officers who stood by without rendering aid to Floyd. Hundreds of people took to Minneapolis streets, including in front of the Third Precinct police station where Chauvin and the other fired officers were assigned.

Patrol vehicles were damaged, the building defaced and eventually encircled and set on fire. Video footage shows police officers in formation abandoning the station just prior to its being set ablaze.

A protester shouts in front of a fire during a protest over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man in police custody in Minneapolis, in Los Angeles, Saturday, May 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The window of a store is damaged in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, Monday, June 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

A demonstrator tries to shield herself from tear gas with a street sign during clashes with police Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Santa Monica, Calif. during unrest and protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A few businesses adjacent to the police station including a Target and an affordable housing complex nearby were also engulfed in flames.

Protests of Floyd’s death and other African Americans spread to several cities where violence followed. Police, politicians and media have blamed organizers and outside agitators for creating the violence, on-the-ground organizers and observers countered that undercover police officers embedded in the crowds were the actual culprits.

A Wednesday protest organized by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles begun in downtown Los Angeles called attention to District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s handling of shootings by law enforcement. Protestors marched from the Hall of Justice onto the 101-Hollywood Freeway where they encountered two CHP cruisers.

Footage from the scene shows protestors surrounding one of the vehicles when it takes off, almost running people down. The car drives off with one protestor sitting atop the hood of the car, it’s back window smashed by a skateboard. The protestor fell from the cruiser and landed face first on the pavement where they were knocked unconscious. Angry protestors then attempted to protect the fallen man by swarming the second cruiser, also shattering its rear window.

Protesters gather at Foley Square as part of a demonstration to protest the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after he was pinned at the neck by a Minneapolis police officer, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura) (Yuki Iwamura)

In this photo taken with a wide angle lens, demonstrators stand in front of Los Angeles City Hall during a protest over the death of George Floyd Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Los Angeles. Floyd died in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill)

Disturbingly, much of the violence experienced throughout many protests came at the hands of visible, uniformed police officers.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that “at least 125 press freedom violations have been reported nationwide by journalists covering the demonstrations” over Floyd’s death during a three-day window beginning May 29.

In New York footage emerged of two NYPD cruisers ramming through a crowd of protestors; in another video, an NYPD officer pulls down the face mask of a young, an unarmed protestor who had his hands raised and pepper sprays him in the face.

In Utah an elderly man with a cane walking in the area of a downtown Salt Lake City protest was knocked to ground by riot-clad officers for not moving fast enough.

In Atlanta, a curfew was declared over the weekend as a peaceful protest made its way through the upscale Buckhead section of town and became violent. Saturday night police came under fire for encircling protestors, leaving them no way to exit, the arresting them for violating the curfew. Footage of a young Black couple being attacked, pepper-sprayed and dragged from their car by Atlanta officers who were subsequently fired.

A protester yells Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Santa Monica, Calif., during unrest and protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A Black congresswoman in Columbus, Ohio, was pepper-sprayed during a protest in that city. Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty, along with Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said they were talking with constituents during the protest when they were “sprayed with mace or pepper spray” by police.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a journalist and photographer with the local NBC affiliate was fired on by police as she covered a Friday protest called to protest the deaths of both Floyd and 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was killed when the police raided her apartment in Louisville, Ky., in March. Officers entered Taylor’s residence without announcing themselves to execute a warrant. Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, opened fire on the intruders thinking there was a break-in. Police returned fire killing Taylor.

Protestors returned to the streets of Louisville over the weekend where this time, police say they were fired upon by unknown protestors as they attempted to disperse a crowd early Monday morning. Police returned fire, killing restaurant owner David McAtee.

Two officers, Kate Crews and Allen Austin, were confirmed to have been involved in the shooting and have been placed on administrative leave. By Monday evening Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad was fired from his position.

Protesters rally in front of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Philadelphia, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Police begin to clear demonstrators gathered as they protest the death of George Floyd, Monday, June 1, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired Conrad, a 40-year veteran of the department who had been chief for eight years, after he learned that no police officers deployed to the protests had their mandated body cameras turned on.

Locally, actor Kendrick Sampson of HBO’s Insecure and Adolphi Guzman-Lopez, reporter for KPCC radio, were hit with rubber bullets during A protest in West LA that ended up in Beverly Hills.

All of this has taken place in the midst of a still-deadly global pandemic that has thus far claimed more than 100,000 people.

As of press time the curfew in Los Angeles, originally from 8 pm to 5:30 am on Saturday night, has now become to 6 pm to 6 am. No word on when or if the curfew will be lifted, as concerns for new Coronavirus cases rise along with attendance at the protests.

From all indications, when or if the protests against police violence will subside are also unknown.

Demonstrators kneel in front of a line of police officers during a protest for the death of George Floyd, Monday, June 1, 2020, near the White House in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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