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George Floyd’s death and Minneapolis protests highlight systemic racism in the US

By Emily Olson
Posted Yesterday, updated Yesterday

At least hundreds of people are seen walking in protest during daylight, many holding placards.
Protesters have gathered to demonstrate against George Floyd’s death for days.(AP: Evan Vucci)

For the past three nights, Minneapolis shook with so much grief and anger that the rest of the world felt quivers from the images alone.

The city’s buildings were looted, graffitied, broken and burned. Its air filled with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, live bullets fireworks, smoke, chants and cries.

A local Target was pillaged. The local police precinct was set aflame.
Police officers wearing gas masks walk in smoke as one throws a tear gas cannister.
Police have used various means to disperse protesters, including tear gas.(AP: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune)

The National Guard and state patrol marched through the streets with face shields and batons. A crew of journalists was arrested on live television. One man was shot and killed, while countless others were bruised.

The protests have spread to cities like New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Memphis and Louisville. It’s unclear whether they’ll stop today, tomorrow or anytime soon.

With the future still uncertain, the question turns to how we landed here, in this moment, with a city struggling to stand.
The protesters were pressing for charges

By now you know about George Floyd, a black American who died shortly after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground on Monday (local time).

Mr Floyd was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $US 20 bill to buy cigarettes, which reads like a crime of poverty at a time when pandemic-related financial hardship is everywhere.

Despite being unarmed and handcuffed, Mr Floyd was held on the ground by the weight of the arresting officer. Mr Floyd audibly struggled to breathe for roughly eight minutes, pleading, while three other officers stood by.

The incident, captured on video and shared widely on social media, swiftly triggered the firing of all four officers.

But now protesters, heartbroken about the death, are outraged over the lack of justice.

They believe that the police officers involved should not just be fired, but punished through the same system that sweeps up a disproportionate number of black Americans.

The stated aim is to see the officers arrested, tried and convicted for murder.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck, has been taken into state custody and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
What it’s like on the ground during riots in Minneapolis
Hundreds of people stand in the street with a building behind them, with smoke billowing above it. Many film something not seen.

Bang after bang sounds as fires burn across the city and smoke billows into the sky above, while protesters holding placards flee screaming and police fire non-lethal rounds. This was Minneapolis on Thursday evening.
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One county lawyer called for patience in the wait for a trial as local, state and federal authorities continue to conduct investigations.

“My job in the end is to prove he violated a criminal statute. […] We need to wade through all of that evidence and come to a meaningful decision and we are doing that to the best of our ability,” he said during a press conference on Thursday.

The Minneapolis Police Chief, echoing those calls for patience, added that the protesters were operating under a “deficit of hope” following years of tension with the local police department and two decades’ worth of national police killings of unarmed black men.

Many protesters are still aiming for peaceful demonstrations in the face of frequent police killings of black Americans.

Some even expressed gratitude that the state chose to call in the National Guard to maintain a sense of order.

But for others in Minneapolis and beyond, the “deficit of hope” created by generations of compounding pain just couldn’t hold for another day.

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