Here’s why people are protesting in the US after a black man dies in police custody

Thursday, 28th May 2020, 12:52 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th May 2020, 1:51 pm
George Floyd died while in police custody (Getty Images)
George Floyd died while in police custody (Getty Images)

The death of an unarmed black man in police custody has sparked protests in Minneapolis.

Footage of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, saying “I can’t breathe” while a white police officer kneels on his neck for several minutes has circulated social media since the incident.

In the distressing video bystanders could be heard urging the police to let him go.

Floyd was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have been fired, with Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey calling for charges to be filed against the officer, Derek Chauvin, who could be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

The incident has caused unrest in the city with police firing tear gas canisters at protesters who returned rocks and spray painted police cars.

Why was George Floyd arrested?

Police approached George Floyd in his vehicle following reports of the use of counterfeit money.

According to a police report Floyd resisted arrest after being told to step away from his vehicle.

Surveillance footage from a nearby restaurant appeared to show no such struggle.

A police statement read: "Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress."

Once in handcuffs Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck.

How have people protested?

Though all four police officers were dismissed, many have taken to the streets demanding justice for George Floyd.

US Representative for Minnesota Ilhan Omar is one of many who have called for the arresting officer to be charged with murder.

Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey has also said that he believes Derek Chauvin should be charged.

Mayor Frey said: "I've wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?" said Mr Frey, who is white.

He later added: "I saw no threat. I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary."

Citizens of Minneapolis have shown their anger at Floyd’s death, with hundreds marching on the 3rd precinct where the involved officers are thought to have worked.

Police have fired tear gas canisters, flash grenades and foam projectiles at protesters, who have thrown rocks and spray painted police cars.

Businesses and homes have been damaged as part of the protest, while cars have been set alight as tensions between protestors and police officers boil over.

Echoes of Eric Garner case

The FBI and state law enforcement are investigating Mr Floyd's death, which immediately drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe.

In the Garner case, local prosecutors, the NYPD's internal affairs unit and the Justice Department all finished investigations into the case before the officer was ultimately fired. Mr Garner's family and activists spent years begging for the officer to be removed.

The officers in the Minneapolis case have not been publicly identified, though one defence lawyer has confirmed he is representing Chauvin. The lawyer, Tom Kelly, declined to comment further.

The police union asked the public to wait for the investigation to take its course and not to "rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers".