Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Minneapolis on Tuesday night to protest the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer kneed him in the neck. Protesters marched nearly two miles, from the site of Floyd’s death on the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue to the Minneapolis Police’s 3rd Precinct building. However, police did not respond in kind to the demonstrators marching down the street.
Cops arrived in riot gear to confront the crowd, firing tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets at the non-violent group of people. At one point, protesters used shopping carts as a barricade to protect them from what they felt were police assaults.
“Shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed protesters when there are children present should never be tolerated. Ever,” Minnesota Rep. Ilman Omar tweeted. “What is happening tonight in our city is shameful. Police need to exercise restraint, and our community needs space to heal.”
The horrifying images of police in Minneapolis violently assaulting unarmed protesters drew comparisons to "re-open" protests across the country. In Michigan, groups of white men openly carried assault rifles, Confederate flags, and Nazi imagery and defied social distancing and stay at home orders in their campaign to reopen the state. Police in all those cases demonstrated restraint, standing by while protesters screamed in their faces and peacocked around with guns strapped to their backs.
The efforts from police to shut down a protest in response to George Floyd's death is particularly jarring for demonstrators walking the streets in Minneapolis. Floyd was detained for suspected forgery and allegedly resisting arrest — though new video has emerged bringing the latter accusation into question. A video taken by a bystander shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly seven minutes while Floyd groans and says he cannot breathe.
"My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” Floyd pleads with the officer, who does not let up. Floyd was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Floyd’s death has drawn comparisons to the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer strangled him while Garner said, “I can’t breathe.”
The two officers who were seen on the video have been identified as Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao. Tao has a history of excessive force complaints and Chauvin has been involved in several police-involved shootings over his career, the Star-Tribune reports. A 2015 report from the Washington Post found that one of every eight fatal police shootings was committed by an officer who had previously shot and killed someone. While many officers claim that most police officers never fire their weapon, “we found that those who do, often do so in multiple instances,” tweeted Wesley Lowery, one of the authors of the analysis.
The four officers on the scene during for Floyd’s death, including Chauvin and Tao, were fired on Tuesday, and the FBI is taking part in the investigation. Now, Minneapolis continues to reckon with a police force that has killed yet another innocent man, and will no longer allow the city to mourn his death, either.