Community anger over the death of George Floyd boiled over Tuesday night in Minneapolis, as protesters and officers clashed, lobbing projectiles and tear gas.
Floyd died Monday at HCMC after an officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, ignoring Floyd’s protests that he couldn’t breathe. The scene was caught on video and posted online, quickly becoming a national sensation.
Tuesday evening, thousands of people, many of them wearing masks, marched peacefully from the site — outside Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue — to the Police Department’s Third Precinct, where tensions quickly escalated.
As rain began to fall, protesters shattered the glass front door of the station and defaced the building. Police squad vehicles were hit with spray paint.
Some protesters climbed on top of the building, while others threw rocks and water bottles at officers in riot gear. Police responded by firing chemical irritants and flash-bang devices, and sending groups scattering to a nearby Target and Arby’s, some getting milk to pour into their stinging eyes.
Protesters used Target shopping carts as barricades while the store temporarily closed. The protest waned shortly after 9 p.m. as the crowds dwindled.
Calls for prosecution
During its march, the crowd, which numbered in the thousands, chanted, “I can’t breathe” and called for the swift prosecution of the officers involved.
“This will happen again if we don’t get out in front of this,” said community activist Al Flowers, who called Floyd’s death “one of the most egregious murders I’ve ever seen.”
He said the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, should be prosecuted.
Chauvin and the three other officers involved have been fired.
At the protest Tuesday night, many shouted that the firings weren’t enough.
“[Floyd] wasn’t moving. He wasn’t doing anything … they murdered him,” said Linda Bias, a Minneapolis resident who lives near the scene.
“Where he died was right here,” resident Charles McMillian said, pointing to a growing memorial of flowers and balloons outside the Cup Foods storefront.
McMillian, 60, said Floyd’s death was reminiscent of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after he was placed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer who attempted to arrest him after he was accused of selling loose cigarettes.
Garner’s cries of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for those protesting police brutality.
Activist and civil rights lawyer Nekima Levy-Armstrong said she was proud of the thousands of people who showed up to demand justice and condemned the police response.
“To see so many police cars, to hear large, loud booms and what I think was tear gas being sprayed on people, rubber bullets being shot at people, is an excessive response,” she said.
Diva Reynolds stood next to her 9-year-old daughter, Judeah. The girl said she witnessed what happened.
“My daughter got to see the police get away with murder on video,” Diva Reynolds said. “And the man is begging for air, she said ‘Mom … she told me … I mean, it breaks my heart I can’t even talk right now. It’s emotional because that could be her brother. That could be her neighbor.”
Pastor Curtis Farrar of Worldwide Outreach for Christ Ministries said it was clear that Floyd, who was handcuffed, “wasn’t resisting, because he couldn’t resist.”
“I was absolutely disgusted because that man should be alive today,” Farrar said. “He really should be. They actually killed that man.”
As the small crowd grew, community members with the group Family of Trees planted an ironwood tree in Floyd’s memory. It symbolized life over death, said Queen Williams.
“We need this tree to breathe, the man couldn’t breathe,” Williams said.
Staff writers Andy Mannix and Chao Xiong contributed to this report.