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'Get your knee off our necks!': Americans remember Floyd

By Lalit K Jha
June 05, 2020 15:02 IST
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Thousands of Americans carrying placards reading "black lives matter" and raising slogans such as "no justice, no peace" took to the streets in many United States cities, demonstrating peacefully against the killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

IMAGE: The casket of George Floyd rests in front of the stage before his memorial service following his death in Minneapolis police custody, Minnesota, US Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The 46-year-old victim, a native of Houston, was handcuffed and pinned to the ground on May 25 by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.

Floyd's death has triggered nationwide violent protests with a section of the protesters resorting to looting and rioting across the country, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Mourners gathered in huge numbers across the country on Thursday night to remember Floyd after a private memorial service in Minneapolis.


Seeking justice for Floyd, they are demanding urgent reforms in the police and criminal justice system.

Several cities including New York, Washington DC, Chicago and Los Angeles have reported large-scale violence and looting in the last few days.

IMAGE: Courtney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend, pays respect during his memorial service. Photograph: Lucas Jackson /Reuters

More than 10,000 Americans have been arrested across the country for violent protests.

Protesters chant slogans as they march, with music and drum beats blaring in the background in Los Angeles. Cars were seen moving slowly along with the marchers, with many drivers and passengers holding protest signs or raising fists out of their windows to show support.

In New York, city Mayor Bill de Blasio was booed at an event.

“It will not be about words in this city. It will be about a change,” he said.

IMAGE: People attend Floyd's memorial service. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Reverend Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy, said that the reason “why we're marching all over the world is because we were like George, we couldn't breathe. It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say get your knee off our necks”.

He also asked mourners to stand in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time Floyd lay pinned to the pavement by the police officer.

“At the end of the day, my brother's gone, but the Floyd name lives on. I thank god for you all,” his brother Terrence Floyd told another massive gathering in Brooklyn.

IMAGE: A man holds a white rose as he stands outside during a memorial service for George Floyd. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described this as a day of great sadness.

“They are having the first service for George Floyd. It is a national day of mourning, I see, for George Floyd, and we pray for his family and pray for healing for our country,” she told reporters at the US Capitol.

With placards reading “black lives matter”, protesters chanted “no justice, no peace.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Thursday announced to elevate charges against the former Minneapolis police officer who killed Floyd while adding the charges of aiding and abetting murder against the other three officers at the scene.

IMAGE: Quincy Mason Floyd arrives at North Central University for the funeral of his father, George Floyd. Photograph: Eric Miller/Reuters

The Wall Street Journal reported that a fragile calm appeared to descend on the US cities, as the widespread looting and destruction that characterised days of unrest appeared to subside and rage merged into grief and calls for justice.

“As the memorial service for George Floyd takes place in Minneapolis, I once again extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. It is my hope our country will come together in peace and heal from these challenging times,” First Lady Melania Trump said.

IMAGE: A man wearing a slave collar hands carnations to a police officer during a protest in St Louis, Missouri. Photograph: Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

According to The New York Times, the tone at many protests on Thursday was largely mournful, after more than a week of crowds burning with grief and anger over the death of Floyd and other black Americans whose deaths have spurred calls for criminal justice reform.

Congressional Democrats on Thursday said that they plan to release a proposal on police accountability.

IMAGE: Actor Tyrese Gibson attends the memorial service for George Floyd. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Pelosi said that she is working with the Senate Democrats in advancing a legislation protecting the equal justice and including a number of provisions ending racial profiling, excessive use of force, the qualified immunity doctrine and addressing the loss of trust between police departments and communities they serve.

“We will not relax until justice is secured,” she said.

IMAGE: Critical care registered nurse Hengameh Pourkarim wears a protective face mask as protests continue on the streets near the White House. Photograph: Erin Scott/Reuters

“While the vast majority of police officers do their job bravely and righteously, it is undeniable that many African-Americans lack confidence in the American criminal justice system. That must change,” Attorney General William Barr told reporters.

The Constitution mandates equal protection and nothing less is acceptable, he said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said that this is an incredibly challenging time for the country and for all the citizens they serve.

IMAGE: Demonstrators march across Brooklyn Bridge in the Brooklyn borough of New York City in protest against the death of George Floyd. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

“Like most of you, I was appalled and profoundly troubled by the video images of the incident that ended with Mr Floyd's tragic death,” he said.

“In recent days, the violence, threat to life and destruction of property that we've seen in some parts of the country jeopardise the rights and safety of all citizens, including peaceful demonstrators. It has to stop. We're seeing people who are exploiting this situation to pursue violent, extremist agendas—anarchists like Antifa and other agitators,” Wray said.

IMAGE: Demonstrators hold placards behind a fence during a protest. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

The Washington Post on Thursday said that the White House has been transformed into a veritable fortress -- the physical manifestation of President Trump's vision of law-and-order “domination” over the millions of Americans who have taken to the streets to protest racial injustice.

Trump has been very critical of The Post and has described it as fake news. Security around the White House has been stepped up in the last few days mainly because of the violent protests in Washington DC.

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Lalit K Jha
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