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Furor after black man dies as white cop kneels on neck

MINNEAPOLIS: Police dressed in tactical gear attempt to disperse crowds gathered to protest the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Station on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd’s neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said, “I cant breathe”. Floyd was later pronounced dead while in police custody after being transported to Hennepin County Medical Center. -AFP

WASHINGTON: A video of a handcuffed black man dying while a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for more than five minutes sparked a fresh furor in the US over police treatment of African Americans Tuesday. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired four police officers following the death in custody of George Floyd on Monday as the suspect was pressed shirtless onto a Minneapolis street, one officer’s knee on his neck.

“Your knee in my neck. I can’t breathe… Mama. Mama,” Floyd pleaded. Bystanders filmed the scene as Floyd, thought to be in his 40s, slowly grew silent and motionless, unable to move even as the officers taunted him to “get up and get in the car”. He was taken to hospital where he was later declared dead.

Frey expressed outrage as calls rose for the officers to be prosecuted for murder. “What I saw was wrong at every level,” he said of the video. “For five minutes, we watched as a white officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man,” Frey said. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he had been retained by Floyd’s family. Crump said in a statement that Floyd had been stopped by police over a forgery accusation, a charge often used for writing bad cheques or using fake banknotes for purchases. “This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning on a non-violent charge,” he said. Floyd’s death recalled the 2014 choking death of New Yorker Eric Garner by police, who was being detained for illegally selling cigarettes.

‘Pure evil’
His death helped spark the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he had passed the case to the FBI for investigation, which could turn it into a federal rights violation case. But there were mounting calls for the officers’ arrest on homicide charges. “This is pure evil,” tweeted Nekima Levy Armstrong, an African American Minneapolis civil rights attorney. “Those same officers need to be charged and convicted of murder,” she said.

Floyd’s death comes on the heels of two other deaths of African-Americans that involved police wrongdoing. On March 13 in Louisville, three white Kentucky policemen forced their way into the home of a black woman, Breonna Taylor, and shot her in a drug investigation. And police and prosecutors in Brunswick, Georgia allegedly covered up the killing of a young black jogger by the son of a retired investigator for local law enforcement.

The police allegedly withheld for two months a video showing Ahmaud Arbery, 25, being followed and then shot with a shotgun in broad daylight. The families of Arbery and Taylor are also being represented by Crump. The American Civil Liberties Union said the Minneapolis case showed that US police continue to use harsh treatment on African Americans accused of minor charges.

“This tragic video shows how little meaningful change has emerged to prevent police from taking the lives of black people,” said ACLU policing specialist Paige Fernandez. “Even in places like Minneapolis, where chokeholds are technically banned, black people are targeted by the police for low-level offenses and are subjected to unreasonable, unnecessary violence,” she said in a statement.

‘Racist’ call
Separately, a video of a white woman calling the police about a black birdwatcher in New York’s Central Park has gone viral, sparking anger about African Americans being falsely reported to cops. The clip, posted on Twitter and viewed 30 million times, was filmed by the man, Christian Cooper, who said he had asked the woman to leash her dog. She was walking the pooch on Monday in a wooded area of the park popular with birdwatchers where dogs are meant to be kept on leads.

As the woman struggles to control the dog, she approaches Cooper and is then seen making a phone call. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she tells Cooper while appearing to dial 911. “There is an African-American man, I’m in Central Park. He’s recording me and threatening me and threatening my dog,” she then tells the operator.

The exchange prompted outrage on social media, with users calling the woman a “Karen”, a term popular online to describe an entitled white woman. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio condemned her actions as “racism, plain and simple”. “She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man. Even though she was the one breaking the rules. She decided he was the criminal and we know why. This kind of hatred has no place in our city,” he tweeted.

The woman was identified as Amy Cooper, no relation to the man she argued with. She worked in insurance at investment management company Franklin Templeton. She apologized during an interview with NBC but denied that she was racist, saying she had overreacted after feeling threatened. “I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family,” she said. In a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday, Franklin Templeton said it had fired an employee with immediate effect following an investigation. “We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company said. 
On Facebook, Christian Cooper said he had offered the dog a treat after the woman refused his request to leash the dog. “That’s when I started video recording with my iPhone, and when her inner Karen fully emerged and took a dark turn,” he wrote.

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