George Floyd killing rocks age-old race faultlines

The Minneapolis police force has long been known to shoot first and ask questions later, as many Australians are all too painfully aware.

This is the midwest city where former Sydney life coach Justine Damond Ruszczyk was tragically murdered by a trigger-happy rookie cop after she called 911 for help in 2017.

Her death came shortly after the controversial police shootings of two black men and many of the same protesters who rallied for them again took to the streets in the name of "Justice for Justine".

Australian Justine Damond. was killed by police after calling them for help. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Australian Justine Damond. was killed by police after calling them for help. Picture: Nathan Edwards

But even by the troubled Minneapolis police force's own standards, the death of George Floyd - his last tormented moments pleading for air caught on film - was deeply shocking.

As authorities face a fourth night of anarchy that had spread from Minnesota to cities across America, the prosecutor who convicted Ms Damond's killer said he would be using the same charges and the same team to go after Mr Floyd's assailants.

Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third degree murder and manslaughter, said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on Friday, local time.

 

Mr Freeman said charges were still being considered against three other police officers involved in his death.

"We felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator," Mr Freeman said.

Third degree murder carries a maximum 25 year sentence and is defined by recklessly but unintentionally causing death.

The final moments of Mr Floyd's life were detailed in court papers, which showed Officer Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, with almost the last three minutes of this period after he was unresponsive.

 

George Floyd died after being restrained in Minneapolis. Picture: Supplied
George Floyd died after being restrained in Minneapolis. Picture: Supplied

"Police are trained that this type of restraint of a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous," the complaint states.

A preliminary autopsy report found Mr Floyd didn't die from strangulation or "traumatic asphyxia" but that his "underlying health conditions including coronary disease and hypertensive disease" had contributed.

"The combined effects of Mr Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death," said the report lodged with Hennepin County Court.

DEATH EXPOSES 'NATIONAL CRISIS'

The on-camera killing last Monday of Mr Floyd is one of three recent high profile cop killings of black Americans that have exposed the racial faultiness at the country's heart.

Unrest has been building in Georgia following the death in February of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down and shot by a white father and son in their pick-up while he was running in a predominantly white neighbourhood.

His sickening killing was also caught on camera and it was only when that film exploded onto social media last month that local authorities, who had connections to the father and son, acted on it.

Ahmaud Arbery was killed in February.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed in February.

While Minneapolis burned through Friday morning, seven people were gunned down in riots in Louisville, Kentucky over the killing of Breonna Taylor, an ambulance officer who police shot eight times in her home while trying to serve a warrant on her boyfriend.

The three families of these victims issued a joint statement about the "national crisis" their deaths exposed.

"We're devastated about the senseless violence that has broken the hearts of our families," they said.

Rodney King’s brutal police in 1991. Picture: AP
Rodney King’s brutal police in 1991. Picture: AP

"While we are grateful for the outpouring of love and support, it's important that now - more than ever - we use our voices to enact change, demand accountability within our justice system and keep the legacies of Breonna, Ahmaud and George alive. This is a national crisis and our government needs to take immediate and widespread action to protect our black and brown communities."

The unrest that has spread from Los Angeles to New York in recent days was some of the worst race rioting since the savage beating of Rodney King almost 30 years ago and shows just how far the country has to come in order to heal the centuries-old legacy of slavery.

 

Rodney King, three days after his videotaped beating in Los Angeles March 1991.
Rodney King, three days after his videotaped beating in Los Angeles March 1991.

 

TRUMP ACCUSED OF INFLAMING SITUATION

US President Donald Trump has been accused of inflaming the discord with his social media messaging. He yesterday walked back from a controversial tweet stating "when the looting starts the shooting starts", saying he wasn't threatening to order the military to fire on protesters but rather noting the shootings that have been part of the protests.

Mr Trump said he had spoken to the Floyd family, describing them as "terrific people" and he ordered a fast-tracked FBI probe of the shooting when Minnesota authorities appeared to be hesitating earlier in the week.

"We can't allow a situation like happened in Minneapolis to descend further in to the lawless anarchy and chaos," he said.

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Protesters demonstrate outside of a burning fast food restaurant in Minneapolis. Picture: AP
Protesters demonstrate outside of a burning fast food restaurant in Minneapolis. Picture: AP

 

 

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden yesterday said he too had spoken to the families of the three victims.

"We've spoken their names aloud. Cried them out in pain and horror. Chiselled them into long suffering hearts," Mr Biden said.

"They are the latest additions to an endless list of lives stolen - potential wiped out unnecessarily.

"It's a list that dates back more than 400 years: black men, black women, black children."

And Mr Trump's predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, the first black president, urged Americans to reshape what was "normal".

A police car burns during a protest in Atlanta. Picture: AP
A police car burns during a protest in Atlanta. Picture: AP

"It's natural to wish for life 'to just get back to normal' as a pandemic and economic crisis up-end everything around us," Mr Obama said.

"But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly "normal" - whether it's while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.

"This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America. It can't be 'normal' If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better."

Originally published as George Floyd killing rocks age-old race faultlines

Riots broke out in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Picture: AFP
Riots broke out in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Picture: AFP
A Los Angeles police officer takes aim at a looter in a market at Alvarado and Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Picture: AP
A Los Angeles police officer takes aim at a looter in a market at Alvarado and Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Picture: AP
Rioters in downtown Los Angeles during the 1992 riots that swept the city for days. Picture: Getty
Rioters in downtown Los Angeles during the 1992 riots that swept the city for days. Picture: Getty
A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building in Minneapolis. Picture: AP
A protester carries a U.S. flag upside down, a sign of distress, next to a burning building in Minneapolis. Picture: AP
A masked protester kneels before San Jose police. Picture: AP
A masked protester kneels before San Jose police. Picture: AP
Demonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis. Picture: AP
Demonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis. Picture: AP


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