George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died in Minneapolis on Monday while he was being restrained by the police. Video footage of the incident, which was broadcast by the media and went viral on social media platforms, showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he gasped for breath.
US President Donald Trump threatened the use of force in dealing with protests against the death of George Floyd, referring to participants as “thugs” on Twitter. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the president said Friday.
Within hours, Twitter flagged the post for “glorifying violence” but let it remain visible in the public’s interest “to remain accessible.”
Four policemen have since been fired, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been called in to conduct a federal civil rights probe. The officer who pinned him to the ground, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder.
The death has triggered violent unrest in Minneapolis, leading to a state of peacetime emergency being declared in Minnesota state as well as the activation of its National Guard. Protests have also taken place in other parts of the US, including in California, New York, Ohio, and Colorado.
Floyd was arrested on Monday after he was accused of using a counterfeit $20 note at a local deli. According to the police, Floyd “physically resisted” the arrest after he was told to exit his car, a claim that was belied by mobile phone footage recorded by several passers-by. A white police officer then went on to restrain Floyd, and kneeled on his neck for at least seven minutes despite the 46-year-old gasping for breath and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. The officer remained in that position even after Floyd became unconscious. His unresponsive body was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.