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US protesters, police clash over shooting

BROOKLYN CENTER, MN: Protesters march from the Brooklyn Center police headquarters to a nearby FBI office Tuesday in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. – AFP

MINNEAPOLIS, US: Protesters faced off with police for a third night Tuesday in the American city of Minneapolis over the killing of a young black man shot by an officer, with more than 60 people arrested, law enforcement officials said. Tensions have soared over the Sunday police shooting of Daunte Wright near the midwestern city, in a community already on edge over the ongoing trial of an officer accused of killing another Black man, George Floyd, last year.

Riot police moved in to disperse a group of demonstrators estimated to number between 800 and 1,000 in Brooklyn Center, the suburb where Sunday’s shooting took place. Officers deployed stun grenades while protesters responded by throwing objects including water bottles and bricks, law enforcement officials said.

Earlier in the day the families of Wright and Floyd came together to demand an end to police brutality and the killing of unarmed African Americans by white officers. “The world is traumatized watching another African-American man being slain,” Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd said of 20-year-old Wright, as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Wright’s relatives at an outdoor press event in driving snow.

A day earlier Philonise Floyd testified in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer on trial for murder and manslaughter in the case of George Floyd, whose death last year shocked the nation. “To the Wright family from the Floyd family, you all have our condolences,” Floyd said Tuesday as he consoled the latest African-American family devastated by the death of a loved one at the hands of police. “We’re here, and we will fight for justice for this family.”

Wright was shot dead during a traffic stop by a police officer who apparently confused her handgun with her Taser, in what the force later described as a horrible accident. The officer who shot Wright resigned on Tuesday, as did Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, who had told reporters earlier that the officer “had the intention to deploy their Taser but instead shot Mr Wright with a single bullet.” The families rejected the accident explanation, as several relatives and activists at the press event called for the officer to be arrested and jailed for her actions.

“A so-called mistake? A handgun for a Taser? It’s unacceptable,” Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams said. “Just because you are the law doesn’t mean you’re above the law,” he added. “When is enough enough?” For activists like Toshira Garraway, Wright’s killing is another example of the police brutality and systemic discrimination that has prompted an American reckoning on racial injustice.

US President Joe Biden called the shooting of a Black motorist by police “tragic” but warned that violent protests were unjustifiable. The incident in a Minneapolis suburb was a “really tragic thing that happened but I think we have to wait and see what the investigation shows,” Biden told reporters. “In the meantime, I want to make it clear again: there is absolutely no justification, none, for looting. Peaceful protests-understandable,” he added. Biden said he had been briefed and had seen the police body cam video showing an officer shoot Daunte Wright after he tried to escape during a traffic stop. The Brooklyn Center police chief says the officer mixed up her firearm with the taser she’d been meaning to use.

Biden called the footage “fairly graphic. The question is, was it an accident, was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full blown investigation.” “In the meantime, I want to make it clear again: there is absolutely no justification, none, for looting. Peaceful protests-understandable.” “The fact is that we do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in the Black community, in that environment, is real. It’s serious and it’s consequential, but it does not justify violence or looting,” Biden said.

“We should listen to Dante’s mom, who is calling for peace and calm.” Asked about the nearby trial of a Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering another Black man, George Floyd, last year, Biden said he hoped the outcome would get broad backing. “I’m hopeful that there’ll be a verdict and an outcome that will be supported by the vast majority of people in the region. That’s my expectation.”

‘Can’t breathe’
Shortly before the families spoke, prosecutors rested their case against Chauvin in the Floyd trial. The defense immediately launched into its case. Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson contends that Floyd died from underlying health problems mixed with his use of drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine, and not from police actions.

In a video taken by a bystander at the scene, the 45-year-old Chauvin, who is white, was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man-arrested for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill-complained repeatedly that he “can’t breathe.” The recording touched off protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world. Wright’s killing Sunday has triggered fresh tumult, with protesters taking to the streets despite the imposition of a curfew. – AFP

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