Protesters in Portland cross Morrison Bridge Wednesday while rallying against the killing of George Floyd while in police custody. PHOTO: TERRAY SYLVESTER/REUTERS
Cities See Relative Calm Ahead of Memorials for George Floyd
| le 4 June 2020
Largely peaceful demonstrators cheer Minnesota attorney general’s decision to add upgraded charge against Chauvin and charge three others in killing of Mr. Floyd
By Katie Honan, Stephanie Yang, Andrés R. Martínez
and Alicia A. Caldwellv – The Wall Street Journal
MINNEAPOLIS—Largely peaceful protesters gathered again nationwide Wednesday, as Minneapolis prepared for the first service memorializing George Floyd, whose killing here in police custody sparked widespread civil unrest.
Protesters, at times flouting curfews, cheered the Minnesota attorney general’s decision Wednesday to add an upgraded charge of second-degree murder against one former police officer and charge three others in the death of Mr. Floyd. Still, some said the development wouldn’t dissuade them from continuing to rally.
“It’s great that that happened, we can all rejoice,” said Westenley Alcenat, 32, at a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y. “But I don’t think the black community and people more generally will let the fight rest.”
U.S. cities experienced a night of relative calm compared with earlier evenings that saw nighttime looting and destruction after largely peaceful daytime protests.
Still, some violent clashes with police were reported nationwide. In New York, two NYPD officers were shot and one was stabbed in the neck on a Brooklyn street Wednesday night while guarding against looting.
A male suspect who stabbed one of the officers was also shot, said NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who described the scene as chaotic and involving 22 shots being fired. All three officers were in stable condition and were expected to recover, according to Mr. Shea, who spoke at a press conference Thursday morning. The suspect was in critical condition, he said.
In Los Angeles, thousands marched through downtown, and the crowd erupted into cheers when a speaker announced the new charges. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Creshaun Sanders, a 30-year-old actor, of the new charges in the killing of Mr. Floyd. But he said he wants to see broader changes and added that the fact that so many protesters have turned out during the coronavirus pandemic shows the importance of the issue of police brutality and racism.
Responding to that pressure, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday night that he and the city council had identified $250 million in cuts that would be made from departments including the police, whose budget many protesters have said should be slashed, and invested in jobs, education, and health, with a focus on minority communities. The Democrat also announced changes to police policies including requiring officers to intervene when they see inappropriate uses of force.
“This is a moment we have to look back on 20 years from now and say we did the right thing,” Mr. Garcetti said in a speech streamed online.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday lifted that city’s curfew early, saying on Twitter, “for those peacefully demonstrating tonight, please know you can continue to demonstrate.”
Police in New Orleans, meanwhile, reported on Twitter that they used tear gas on some demonstrators trying to walk across the Crescent City Expressway bridge.
Police in Vallejo, Calif., said Wednesday that a man officers shot and killed during unrest early Tuesday morning had been carrying a hammer in his sweatshirt pocket that they mistook for a gun. He had been trying to loot a pharmacy when they confronted him, police said.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison added the charge of second-degree murder in addition to the charge of third-degree murder against Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who was arrested and first charged Friday. The three other former officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Mr. Floyd, a black man, was arrested May 25 by four police officers on suspicion of using counterfeit money. In video that emerged a day later, Mr. Chauvin, who is white, can be seen pressing his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Mr. Floyd cries that he can’t breathe and eventually loses consciousness. He was declared dead later that night. The Hennepin County medical examiner said Monday that his death was a homicide.
Mr. Chauvin and the three others, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, have been fired from their jobs as police officers. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman initially charged Mr. Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter, before Mr. Ellison took over as the lead prosecutor in the case.
The medical examiner’s office released its full autopsy report on Mr. Floyd Wednesday which said that he had the new coronavirus in April and was likely asymptomatic. He also had the drug fentanyl in his system at the time of his death, the report said.
Law-enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C., and New York are investigating whether outsiders or others dropped off bricks at protest sites that could be used to throw at police.
In Washington, investigators are looking at reports of drop-offs of suspected pallets of bricks and other items, for example, to see whether there is any correlation with “rally points” and times announced by extremist groups, said a Justice Department official.
“Right now we have not confirmed an active roll with any extremist group on either the left or the right with the individuals that we’ve charged yet, but we have leads on some of those and we’re actively investigating that,” the official said.
“We see those breadcrumbs, and that’s what we’re trying to connect and verify,” said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. “That could give us a mosaic to see if there is a coordinated command and control.”
A different Justice Department official, speaking about the department’s actions beyond Washington, said Wednesday that law-enforcement officials seized at least one pallet of bricks that were intended to be passed out among protesters.
Three Las Vegas men affiliated with a right-wing extremist group have been accused of plotting to provoke violence at local protests, part of a broader movement aimed at overthrowing the U.S. government, according to a federal complaint.
In Minneapolis on Wednesday, people gathered outside the Cup Foods market where Mr. Floyd was arrested. The site has become a memorial and gathering place for mourners and protesters, many of whom expressed a sense of relief upon hearing of the new charges. The tone appeared to shift from frustration and rage toward themes of peace and persistence.
“If this was any other group of people besides police officers, I think that would have been the expectation,” protester Christopher Vaughn said of the charges.
Attorneys for Messrs. Chauvin, Lane and Kueng didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Thao’s attorneys couldn’t immediately be reached.
The charge of second-degree murder—unintentional, while committing a felony—holds that Mr. Chauvin caused Mr. Floyd’s death without intending to kill him, while committing the felony of assault. The third-degree murder charge, which Mr. Chauvin continues to face, holds that he perpetrated an eminently dangerous act “evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
The new charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 40 years, while the third-degree charge carries a penalty of 25 years.
Among the thousands marching down San Francisco’s 18th Street a few hours before the start of the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, holding signs such as “defund the police” and “black lives matter,” Katie Das, 25, said she didn’t care that additional charges had been brought against the officers. She said that as long as the government was threatening violence against protesters, they had to take to the streets. “If the government is going to support that—we have to be out here,” she said.
About 30 minutes before curfew, protesters continued to gather at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, chanting George Floyd’s name and “you serve us” to a line of police officers at the arena entrance.
Janel Corney, 26, a protester, said she planned to be out “as long as the spirit compels me to be out,” despite the 8 p.m. curfew implemented earlier this week.
Ms. Corney said the news that Mr. Chauvin had been charged with second-degree murder made little difference in how she viewed the protests. “The protests are only the start,” she said. “Respectfully to George Floyd, he’s only the tipping point.”
Pope Hubert, 47, was out on his sixth straight night of protests at the Barclays Center. He headed home 15 minutes before curfew.
He, too, said the charges weren’t enough and added, “We need to see action from the House, Senate to rewrite the plan” for the nation.
At 9 p.m., near Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn, police officers flooded in after two squad cars were blocked by protesters. After a brief break in which a wave of protesters fled, others returned to face the police in a silent standoff on Court Street that shortly broke into more chants.
Ten minutes later, the crowd started running again in starts and stops while some people chided others not to run. Rain started pouring and many of the remaining protesters disbanded.
Wednesday night, thousands of people gathered near the White House, the U.S. Capitol and Georgetown to continue the sixth night of protest in the nation’s capital.
Throughout the day, the crowds had remained calm as hundreds of law enforcement officers from the D.C. Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, National Guard and others stood guard, armed with weapons and chemical munitions. Military vehicles lined side streets, and helicopters circled above.
“These protests are peaceful. It is separate from the looting and everything else,” said Arianna Evans, 23, of Bowie, Md., a half-hour before a curfew was to take effect at 11 p.m.
Near the White House, the crowd chanted: “Take off the riot gear, we don’t see no riot here.”