An emotional Terrence Floyd demanded that rioters stop violence and protest his brother George Floyd’s killing peacefully as he visited the scene in Minneapolis where George was asphyxiated by police officers.
Crying, kneeling, and praying at the intersection where his older brother died, Terrence Floyd told supporters on Monday that rioting and acts of violence “will not bring my brother back”.
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“I understand you’re upset … but if I’m not over here wildin’ out, if I’m not over here blowing up stuff, if I’m not over here messing up my community – then what are y’all doing? Nothing, because that’s not going to bring my brother back at all,” Floyd said angrily over a loudspeaker.
“So let’s do this another way. Let’s stop thinking that our voice don’t matter and vote … because it’s a lot of us and we still going to do this peacefully.”
Floyd then led the crowd in a chant of, “Peace on the left and justice on the right.”
Nationwide peaceful protests – which have descended into violence and rioting at times and have been met at times with excessive force by authorities – continued for a seventh day on Monday with calls for justice for Minnesota resident Floyd who died on May 25.
‘Dominate the streets’
US President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the military to states if their governors did not stamp out violent protests over police brutality, which have swept the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in police custody.
His announcement on Monday came as police under federal command forced back peaceful demonstrators with tear gas so he could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible.
Trump said he was recommending that governors deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to “dominate the streets” and if they failed to do so, he said he would deploy the US military and “quickly solve the problem for them”.
“We cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob,” he said at a White House briefing. “The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities and, as their president, I will fight to keep them safe.”
Minutes before Trump began speaking, police and National Guard soldiers began aggressively forcing back hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, where they were chanting against police brutality and Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
As Trump spoke, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding.
With the area clear outside the White House, Trump then made an unexpected walk from his residence, across Lafayette Park – where protests have taken place for days – to the historic St John’s Episcopal Church, which was damaged during unrest the night before.
He paused for an apparent photo-op, posing with members of his administration, and holding up a Bible.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hana, reporting from Washington, DC, said: “The timing and sequence of events point to one possible interpretation, that a peaceful protest was disrupted to allow the president of the United States a photo opportunity.”
The president is calling out the American military against American citizens.
He used the military to push out a peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church.
It's all just a reality TV show for this president.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 1, 2020
The moment was quickly decried by Trump’s critics as well as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington who said she was “outraged” by the the president’s visit.
“He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer in full expectation that would be a celebratory moment,” the Reverend Mariann Budde said in an interview with AP.
Anger is running high across the country since Floyd died last week after being pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed Black man’s neck until he stopped breathing.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, has been fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Demonstrators are demanding the arrest of the three other officers involved in the incident, who have been fired.
The state and private autopsy reports released on Monday both ruled Floyd’s death a homicide.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said he died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual restraint, and neck compression”, according to a Minneapolis television station.
Al Jazeera’s Jonh Hendren, reporting from Minneapolis, said the county coroner’s findings were “slightly contradicted” by the independent autopsy report that was also released on Monday.
“That one was much stronger; it said he died directly as a result of force placed upon his breathing tube by the police officers and not just the one that has a knee on the neck, the other two who were sitting on his back also choked the air out of him by collapsing his lungs – according to that report, confirming the homicide.”
In St Louis, four police officers were hit by gunfire after protests that started peacefully on Monday became violent overnight, with demonstrators smashing windows and stealing items from businesses and fires burning in the downtown area.
The police department tweeted early Tuesday the officers were taken to a hospital with wounds that were not believed to be life-threatening. It was unclear who had fired the shots.
Demonstrations erupted from Philadelphia, where hundreds of protesters spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city, to Atlanta, where police fired tear gas at demonstrators, to Nashville, where more than 60 National Guard soldiers put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of Tennessee’s state Capitol to honour Floyd.
Two people were killed during protests in the Chicago suburb of Cicero, authorities said, but provided no details. In Louisville, Kentucky, riot police firing tear gas scattered several hundred protesters from downtown, violently capping a day of mostly peaceful protests.
A vehicle ploughed through a group of law enforcement officers at a demonstration in Buffalo, New York, injuring at least two.
In New York City, where nightfall has brought widespread scenes of destruction, large crowds rallied peacefully in Times Square and Brooklyn during the day. Then, in the early evening, looters rushed into a Nike store in Manhattan and protesters smashed storefront windows near Rockefeller Center.
New York joined other cities around the country in imposing a curfew after days of unrest.
Protesters have remained undeterred by curfews and the presence of the US National Guard in some cities.
More curfews were imposed on the nation’s biggest city, New York, as well as Washington, DC as they brace for several more days of protests.