US: Outrage as another unarmed black man dies after being 'suffocated' by a white police officer



Protesters have clashed with police in the US following the death of an unarmed black man, who pleaded he could not breathe as a white officer pinned him down with his knee.

Video footage of the restraint was shared widely online and showed George Floyd, believed to be in his 40s, fighting for his life.

Four officers involved in the arrest have since been fired, with the city's mayor Jacob Frey saying: "This is the right call." The FBI and authorities in Minnesota have launched investigations into his death.

George's sister Bridget said on Wednesday morning that the officers, who were fired on Tuesday, “should be in jail for murder”.

Bridget Floyd struggled to hold back tears as she spoke to NBC’s Today show about the family’s shock and grief.

She said: “My family and I are taking this very, very hard. It’s very heartbreaking, it’s very disturbing.”

Huge protests took place in Minneapolis on Tuesday night. Demonstrators took to the streets where Mr Floyd died, with many chanting and carrying banners that read "I can't breathe”. In response, police in riot gear fired teargas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

In the footage that emerged of Floyd, he can be heard pleading “I cannot breathe” and “Don’t kill me!” He then becomes motionless, eyes closed, face-first on the road.

Police officer pinned George Floyd until he passed out

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Minneapolis Police Department said its officers were responding to a "report of a forgery in progress".

"After [the suspect] got out [of his car], he physically resisted officers," the statement said. "Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and note he appeared to be suffering medical distress."

He was then transported to a nearby medical centre where he died a short time later, the department said.


A community outraged

Community members and leaders have expressed outrage over the incident, with many drawing comparisons to Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man who died in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by New York City police. Garner also pleaded that he could not breathe and that incident sparked nationwide protests.


Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing the Floyd family, spoke alongside Bridget Floyd on Wednesday, and said that additional video footage that has not been seen by the public or the authorities yet had been sent to him by other bystanders and from business surveillance cameras.

Earlier on Tuesday Crump said that in some ways, the use of “violent, lethal and excessive force” on Floyd was more disturbing than the treatment of Garner, even, because the officer is seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for up to nine minutes.


"We all watched the horrific death of George Floyd on video as witnesses begged the police officer to take him to the police car and get off his neck," Crump said.

"This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning about a non-violent charge," he added.

"How many 'while Black' deaths will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of black lives by police finally ends?"


Celebrities speak out

Leading athletes, including LeBron James, Lewis Hamilton and Colin Kaepernick, have expressed their anger and grief over the death of George Floyd.

George Floyd died after being pinned down

Monday night's incident is one of several cases of Black men and women being killed by police or former law enforcement across the US in recent months.

The FBI is investigating the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. Taylor, a Louisville emergency medical technician, was killed by police in the early hours of March 13 as she lay in bed.

Police said they were serving a warrant as part of a drug investigation when they shot at Ms Taylor and her boyfriend from the apartment.

Taylor's boyfriend said he was firing in self-defence, believing his home was being broken into. No drugs were found in the apartment. One officer was injured.

The US Department of Justice is also reviewing possible hate crime charges in the US state of Georgia over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, and the police handling of the case.

Arbery was killed in February as he ran through a predominantly white neighbourhood in Glynn County, Georgia. The arrests of Gregory McMichael, a retired investigator for the local prosecutor's office, and his son came more than two months after the incident and only after a video of the shooting went viral, were the two white men reprimanded. Police have also since arrested the man who filmed the incident.