By Emma Clancy.
Protests against institutionalised racism have spread to cities across the United States in response to the horrific murder of black man George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis on Monday. Police have responded to three days of protest in the city by pepper-spraying and baton-charging crowds.
Minnesota’s Governor Tim Walz (a Democrat) has deployed the National Guard, sending in 500 soldiers to Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St Paul.
The angry protests have spread from Minnesota to New York City, Memphis, Oakland, Phoenix, Denver, Louisville, Miami and Columbus. At least 72 people have been arrested overnight in New York.
Meanwhile in Tallahassee, Florida, police shot dead unarmed black transgender man Tony McDade on Wednesday morning. The murder has hardly been reported by the media, and the reports that do exist insist on misgendering him.
David J Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said: “In the midst of a global pandemic and the most concerning virus being spread is still white supremacy. Prior to being shot and fatally wounded by a police officer, Tony posted a video to his Facebook page recounting a horrific beating he received from five men because he is a Black trans man.”
US President Donald Trump has threatened violence against protesters, who he labelled as “THUGS” on Twitter, saying the military is ready to assume control in Minneapolis and adding, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”. Twitter attached a warning to the tweet saying it violated standards against glorifying violence but did not remove it.
The Guardian reports that at least seven people have been shot in Louisville, Kentucky, during protests against the murder of black woman Breonna Taylor, shot dead by police in her own home on 13 March. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency paramedic technician, was shot at least eight times by police who stormed her apartment in a “drug raid”. On 22 May, Louisville police chief Steve Conrad resigned over her death, as the FBI opened an investigation. No drugs were recovered during the deadly raid.
In Denver on Wednesday night, a car plowed through a peaceful #BlackLivesMater protest, deliberately hitting a man twice in a scene reminiscent of the murder of anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer in a counter-protest against the ‘Unite the Right’ protest in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
Black Latino CNN journalist Omar Jimenez and his crew, reporting on the ground at 5am in Minneapolis, were arrested live on air without justification.
Bus drivers in Minneapolis are reportedly refusing to use their buses to transport protestors, who have been arrested en masse by police, to jail.
“As a transit worker and union member, I refuse to transport my class and radical youth,” Minneapolis bus driver Adam Burch said.
“An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.”
Burch’s branch of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) released a statement saying: “In ATU, we have a saying ‘NOT ONE MORE’ when it comes to driver assaults, which in some cases have led to members being murdered while doing their job. We say ‘NOT ONE MORE’ execution of a black life by the hands of police. NOT ONE MORE. JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD!”
The four police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd on Monday – Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng – have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, but they have still not been arrested, fuelling the nationwide outrage.
The officer filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes while he was handcuffed and pleaded for his life, Derek Chauvin, has had 18 complaints lodged against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs section.
The causes of the complaints, gathered in a database by according to a database by Minneapolis Communities United Against Police Brutality, are not public but he was never disciplined for any of them.
Chauvin has been involved in several previous violent incidents including one that resulted in a man being killed. Each of the incidents involved people of colour.
In 2005, he and another officer were involved in a car chase that caused the death of three people, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality. In 2006, Chauvin was one of several officers involved in shooting dead Latino man Wayne Reyes. In 2008 he shot 21-year Ira Latrell Toles, an unarmed black man. In 2011 he was involved in the shooting of Alaskan Native American man Leroy Martinez.
Black Minneapolis man Lamar Ferguson sued officer Tou Thao, and another officer, Robert Thunder for excessive use of force in 2017. While walking home from the hospital with his heavily pregnant girlfriend, the officers had stopped Ferguson for looking “suspicious”. They accosted him, handcuffing him and shattering his teeth with kicks and punches. Ferguson was hospitalised for four days and later received an out-of-court settlement of $25,000.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said today that he expects “there will be charges” against the four Minneapolis officers involved in but agencies are making sure they have “a very strong case” before announcing charges.
Derek Chauvin is beeng represented by lawyer Tom Kelly, who successfully defended police officer Jeronimo Yanez against manslaughter charges after Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile, a black driver, during a traffic stop in Minneapolis in 2016.
Biden favourite Amy Klobuchar failed to prosecute Chauvin
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar – a favourite for Joe Biden’s pick as election running mate and Vice President – spent eight years as Hennepin County attorney, the chief public prosecutor for Minnesota.
In 2006 in response to the police murder of Wayne Reyes, Klobuchar decided against prosecuting Chauvin and the other officers involved in the shooting. During her time as chief prosecutor she failed to prosecute officers in at least 24 cases of police violence resulting in deaths of civilians.
In February an Associated Press investigation raised serious questions about the legality of Klobuchar’s methods in the prosecution of a black teenager, Myon Burrell, in a high-profile case over the murder of an 11-year-old girl, Tyesha Edwards by a stray bullet in 2002. Klobuchar has boasted about this story on her campaign for the Senate, as well as last year during a Democratic Presidential debate.
Responding to the February investigation, the New York Times commented: “Civil rights leaders in Minneapolis say the Burrell case was just one example of how Ms Klobuchar’s office focused disproportionately on prosecuting African-Americans while declining to bring charges in more than two dozen shootings and other civilian fatalities that occurred during encounters with police officers.”
Activists on social media are now calling for Klobuchar’s resignation over her failure to prosecute Chauvin in 2006.
George Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd told the media on Wednesday morning that she wants the four officers involved in her brother’s death to be charged with murder.
“I don’t need them to be suspended and able to work in another state or another county. Their licenses should be taken away; their jobs should be taken away, and they should be put in jail for murder.
“I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did. They murdered my brother; he was crying for help.”
Please donate what you can to the Minnesota Freedom Fund to bail out protestors who are on the streets over the racist police murder of George Floyd here: https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/donate
Emma Clancy is editor of Irish Broad Left. Follow her on Twitter @emmaclancy123.