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 gasping for breath 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, groaning for help and repeatedly saying, “please, I can't breathe,” before growing motionless.
Hundreds of protesters, many with faces covered, thronged streets around the Third Precinct police station late on Wednesday, about half a mile from where Floyd had been arrested, chanting, “No justice, no peace” and “I can't breathe.”
The crowd grew to thousands as night fell and the protest turned into a standoff outside 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. Protesters pelted police with rocks and other projectiles. Some threw tear gas canisters back at the officers.
Television news images from a helicopter over the area showed dozens of people looting a Target store, running out with clothing and shopping carts full of merchandise.
Fires erupted after dark at several businesses, including an auto parts store. Eyewitnesses said the blazes appeared to be the work of arsonists. Media said a smaller, peaceful protest was held outside the home of one of the police officers.
Anger on the West Coast
Demonstrators block traffic during a protest Wednesday, May 27, 2020, in Los Angeles over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody earlier in the week. (AP)
The city identified the four officers as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng. It did not say who knelt on Floyd's neck, and gave no further information.
The local police union said the officers were cooperating with investigators and cautioned against a “rush to judgment.”
“We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner's report,” the union statement said.
The county attorney's office said it would decide how to proceed once investigators had concluded their inquiries.
The case was reminiscent of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in New York City who died after being put in a banned 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 by police using unjustified lethal force.