US president prepares to send in the military and warns protesters that they could be shot. The city of Minneapolis has suffered its third night of violent protests after the police killing of African-American, George Floyd.
Tensions are escalating in the US as a police station was burned down and the president threatened to shoot looters during the third night of protests over the police killing of African-American, George Floyd.
President Donald Trump’s threat of violence against protesters was deemed enough to violate Twitter’s terms on ‘glorifying violence’. The social media site put the offending tweet behind a warning notice, explaining that it would remain accessible due to public interest concerns.
The tweet by the US president read: “...These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The warning notice appended by Twitter stated: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
“We've taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts,” Twitter said in a separate tweet.
Trump has previously lashed out at the social media site over its fact checking of his comments suggesting postal ballots could be forged.
His comments come amid the worst unrest over racially motivated police violence in recent years.
Protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have been out on the street for three nights running after the death of George Floyd, which occurred shortly after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck while the former pleaded that he could not breathe.
The leaderless protests, backed by anti-racism activists and the grassroots Black Lives Matter movement, turned violent when police resorted to deploying tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters looted businesses and attacked police stations.
On Thursday, the third precinct building of the Minneapolis police was raided and reportedly set alight by protesters. No police officers were in the vicinity, according to local media reports. Police officials later confirmed all of their personnel had been evacuated.
One Twitter user summed up the historic prominence of the events: “A police station has not been destroyed or even overrun in decades if ever, not even during the Watts unrest of 1965, the Rodney King unrest of 1992 or the Ferguson unrest of 2014.”
On Friday, a CNN correspondent, along with his crew, were arrested while reporting from the scene in Minneapolis. CNN has termed it a ‘clear violation’ of their First Amendment rights and has appealed for their immediate release.
Local response and investigations
Separate from Trump’s threat, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, has sent in National Guard troops to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul to quell the violence.
Walz said that while he supported the peaceful protests, some individuals had taken part in “arson, rioting, looting, and damaging public and private property.”
There are signs that the protests are not limited to Minneapolis alone. Reports out of Denver in Colorado say police there shot at protesters who had gathered at the state capitol to protest. Others were reported in New York and Oakland.
Trump has also lashed out at public officials who have criticised the police, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has categorically condemned Floyd’s killing and called on the local county attorney to place charges against Derek Chauvin, the police officer seen kneeling on Floyd.
Both the US attorney’s office and the FBI are investigating Floyd’s death with the latter promising that the case is a ‘priority’.
Responding to the president’s description of him as a ‘radical leftist’ and ‘weak’ and his threat to send in the military, Democrat Frey said: “Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions, weakness is pointing a finger at somebody else during a time of crisis, Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis, we are strong as hell.”
State police in Minnesota arresting Black CNN reporter while he’s on air, in mid-report. pic.twitter.com/cq1RLddnAr— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) May 29, 2020
Chokeholds and other ‘non-lethal’ police tactics
Legal and law enforcement experts say that given the evidence, there seems to be little justification for the level of violence used against Floyd.
Speaking on the use of choke holds, David A Harris, a Law Professor at the University of Pittsburgh told TRT World: “This has been a controversial tactic for a long time. The fact that police label the neck restraint or chokehold a non-lethal use of force does not mean it can’t kill.
“It means it shouldn’t and most times won’t kill but sometimes we know it does and this tells us more than anything that this use of force should be reconsidered.”
Andrew Scott, a former chief of police in Florida and an expert witness in use-of-force cases said in Floyd’s case there was little indication of misapplication of non-lethal restraint methods.
“Over the course of my 40 years in law enforcement and consulting, I’ve never seen a police department allow for a knee to be placed on a neck and consider that an appropriate use of force unless deadly force was applicable,” Scott, told TRT World.
“In this particular case, deadly force was not applicable, the use of the knee compression against Mr Floyd’s neck was not reasonable because Mr Floyd wasn’t resisting arrest,” he added, continuing:
“And even if he was resisting arrest, compressing someone’s neck is very serious and can lead to significant damage up to and including death if not properly applied.”
Recent high-profile controversies
This week’s unrest is the worst over police brutality against African-Americans since the Ferguson protests in August 2014 over the fatal shooting of a black male, Michael Brown, by a white police officer.
Floyd’s killing came on the back of several incidents of either police violence targeting black people or racial controversies involving black people.
In early May a video emerged of two white civilians shooting and killing a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, in the state of Georgia. The pair were only charged after the video came to light, despite the incident occurring in February.
Just a day before Floyd’s death, a viral video captured the moment a white woman in New York called the police on a black man after a confrontation over her dog not wearing a leash in Central Park.
The video caused outrage, as the woman in question, Amy Cooper, repeatedly emphasised the man’s African-American background to the police operators. Many observers suggested that the threat entailed an awareness on Cooper’s part that calling the police on the man could result in fatal consequences for him.
Also in May, health worker Breonna Taylor, was shot dead while sleeping in her home by police officers unaware that the actual suspect in the case they were investigating was already in custody. Her boyfriend had fired in self-defence believing someone was trying to break into their home, unaware that it was the police that were raiding the home.
This article includes interviews conducted by TRT World’s Eyes on Discrimination (EOD) Centre.