George Floyd protesters: ‘We don’t need a curfew, we need change’

Minneapolis protesters, undeterred by curfew and National Guard, demand all cops involved in Floyd’s death be charged.

A man confronts a United States National Guard member in Minneapolis as protesters rally over the death of George Floyd in police custody [Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA – Protesters in at least 12 United States cities defied curfews on Saturday night as outrage over police brutality and the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, escalated.

Hundreds of protesters were still out in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Floyd died in police custody on Monday, amid heavy police and US National Guard presence as an 8pm curfew began on Saturday.

“We don’t need a curfew, we need change,” said Mia, a 20-year resident of Minneapolis.

Going home would “[send] the wrong message that they can shut us up when they want to, and that’s not the case here”, Mia, who requested her surname be withheld, told Al Jazeera.

Protesters have promised to remain in the streets at least until all four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been charged.

So far, only one officer – Derek Chauvin – has been arrested in connection to Floyd’s death.

Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe” and bystanders urged him to get off.

‘I can’t breathe’: US Black man dies in police custody (02:48)

On Friday, he was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other officers involved – identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng – have not been charged, angering protesters who say they all must be held accountable.

Saturday night’s protest started peacefully with protesters chanting “I can’t breathe”, and “no justice, no peace” as they marched down the city’s streets.

Meme Green was handing out water, chips, apples and other snacks to protesters with her young son.

“He is a Black boy who is going to be a Black man,” Green told Al Jazeera. “He needs to see the protest in a positive way.”

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A banner with an image of George Floyd is held by protesters rallying against his death in Minneapolis police custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota [Leah Millis/Reuters] 

But as the curfew began, smoke started appearing on the horizon, with some confrontations between police and protesters.

National Guard fully mobilised

For the first time in state history, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz fully mobilised the National Guard earlier on Saturday in an effort to quell protests which had rocked the city since Tuesday.

The National Guard said more than 4,100 citizen-soldiers and airmen had been deployed to the Twin Cities area, which includes Minneapolis.

Members of the National Guard secure the area during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of African American man George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota [Lucas Jackson/Reuters] 

“We are fully-integrated and unified with law enforcement, fire, Emergency Management Systems, and all state agencies to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Major General Jon Jensen said at a news conference late on Saturday.

In addition to the National Guard, there was an increased law enforcement presence. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds, and several arrests were made.

But protesters remained undeterred.

“It’s absolutely critical that we come together to try to make sure that our babies can grow up in a world where they can walk outside or simply breathe without having to worry about dying,” said Minneapolis resident Ashley Paulson.

Police move towards a protester after curfew Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police offic
Police move towards a protester after curfew in Minneapolis [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Similar scenes were seen nationwide and officials called in the National Guard and implemented curfews in an effort to quell protesters.

In New York City, several groups of protesters rallied throughout the city. While the protests remained mostly peaceful throughout the day, as the sun set, there were periodic scenes of violence. Police used tear gas and videos showed some protesters being thrown to the ground by officers.

Elsewhere, police vehicles and some buildings were set on fire following largely peaceful, but angry protests.

Reminiscent of other police killings

Demonstrators are angry not just over Floyd’s death, but years of police killings and violence against unarmed African Americans. That especially rings true in Minnesota.

In 2015, protesters rallied for more than two weeks following the police killing of 24-year-old Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. No charges were filed against the officers involved.

The next year, 32-year-old Philando Castile was killed by police during a traffic stop in a suburb of Saint Paul, which neighbours Minneapolis. Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath of the shooting live on Facebook. The officer involved was acquitted of manslaughter.

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Smoke rises near a demonstrator holding a sign and facing a row of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota [AFP] 

Paulson said she has had to have some hard discussions with her five-year-old daughter.

“I had to have a conversation with my daughter about the fact that the very people that I was taught were supposed to protect and serve and keep me safe are the very people that she has to be sceptical of,” Paulson said. “I had to teach [that to] my daughter, and it devastated me.”

Source: Al Jazeera