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Police brutality

Wave of outrage sweeps US over police killing of George Floyd

A protester raises a fist near a fire during a demonstration outside the White House over the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of Minneapolis Police on 25 May.
A protester raises a fist near a fire during a demonstration outside the White House over the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of Minneapolis Police on 25 May. © AFP/Getty Images/Alex Wong

Demonstrations against racism and police brutality have gripped at least 140 cities across the United States following the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, last week. As anger boiled over into violence at protests outside the White House, President Donald Trump was temporarily rushed to a bunker for safety.

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Days of relentless coast-to-coast protests, riots, looting and clashes with police have followed the death of 46-year-old Floyd after his arrest on 25 May by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Security footage and bystanders videos showed a white officer, Derek Chauvin pinning a handcuffed Floyd to the ground with his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Floyd called for help and was heard saying “I can’t breathe," and "Don’t kill me."

The officer did not remove his knee until after Floyd had stopped moving.

Violent protests followed, with protesters burning and looting buildings in Minneapolis, including a police precinct.

Third-degree murder

Chauvin was later sacked and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, which sparked further anger as demonstrators called for stronger charges. .

The three other officers involved have also been fired and are under investigation.

Police across the country have widely condemned the actions leading to death of Floyd.

"What took place in Minneapolis is absolutely reprehensible and tarnishes the badge nationwide,” said Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown.

But the condemnations expressed by police have not stemmed the wave of outrage.

Over 4,000 people have been arrested over the last six days of demonstrations for a range of reasons including stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfews imposed in major cities.

In Philadelphia, demonstrations erupted into violence as protesters hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police. Protesters were hit with tear gas and pepper spray in Austin and several other cities, with stores smashed and looted. A fire was started near the White House in Washington DC. 

About 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated in 15 states.

Rushed to security

At the weekend, President Trump tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts," which saw Twitter take unprecedented measures in limiting the public's ability to view the tweet, saying it "violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence”.

The tweet is hidden unless a user clicks to display it, and users cannot like or reply to it.

As protesters gathered outside the White House, some throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades, Secret Service agents rushed  Trump to an underground bunker on Friday, along with wife Melania and son Barron.

Trump blamed anarchists and the media for fuelling the violence, while Attorney General William Barr pointed a finger at “far left extremist” groups.

Police chiefs and politicians accused outsiders of causing the problems.

Worldwide condemnation

Floyd's death has set off protests worldwide. Hundreds of people demonstrated in solidarity with US anti-racism gatherings: in London, Berlin, Toronto, Auckland and more.

International sports stars have added their support by making public statements or gestures and calling for racial justice.

China said the unrest in the US highlights severe racism and police brutality.

"Black people's lives are also lives. Their human rights must also be guaranteed," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

"Racism against ethnic minorities in the US is a chronic disease of American society.”

Zhao said the US government's response to protests at home was a "textbook example of its world-famous double standards”.

"Why does the US lionize the so-called Hong Kong independence and black violence elements as heroes and activists, while calling people who protest against racism 'rioters'?" Zhao asked.

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