Wed, 08 Jul 2020

Minneapolis Bars Police Use of Controversial Chokehold

Voice of America
06 Jun 2020, 10:05 GMT+10

The U.S. city of Minneapolis agreed Friday to ban the police use of chokeholds after an African American man died in police custody, triggering nearly two weeks of protests across America.

City negotiators agreed with the state of Minnesota to ban chokeholds and require police to intervene and report any unauthorized use of force by another officer.

The Minneapolis City Council approved the agreement unanimously after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights began a civil rights investigation this week in response to the death of George Floyd.

Floyd died May 25 after a white policeman pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd pleaded he could not breathe, the latest of many deaths of black Americans during or after encounters with white officers.

Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests demanding justice and systemic reforms. Thousands of protesters have also taken to the streets in large cities throughout the world, including London, Paris and Sydney.

Demonstrators across the United States gathered Friday for an 11th day of protests. The demonstrations, initially marred by arson and looting, have largely shifted to peaceful calls for change.

Washington, the national capital, was bracing for a large protest Saturday.

The Pentagon said Friday that it was ordering active-duty troops who had been brought to the Washington area to respond to the protests to return to their home bases.

Troops brought in from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Drum, New York, have either departed or are under orders to "depart immediately," according to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

The Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the "Old Guard," based in Arlington, Virginia, remains on standby for assistance, McCarthy said, adding that it was the Army's "intention to try to turn that off as soon as possible."

"We've had four peaceful days in a row, projecting a fifth," he said.

About 1,600 total active-duty troops were deployed to the Washington region earlier this week to be ready to assist local law enforcement, if needed, amid civil unrest. Their deployment triggered widespread criticism from Washington city officials and activists that their actions were escalating tensions.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday asking him to "withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from Washington, D.C."

"Obviously, the very first thing is we want the military, we want troops from out of state, out of Washington, D.C.," Bowser said.

The mayor also lifted a 7 p.m. curfew Thursday night for the first time this week. Other big U.S. cities have similarly suspended their nightly curfews, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

On Friday, Bowser formally renamed a street leading to the White House "Black Lives Matter Plaza" after authorizing city workers to paint the slogan in large yellow letters on the street.

The local chapter of Black Lives Matter criticized the mayor's action as a "distraction from real policy changes." Black Lives Matter DC said on Twitter that "Bowser has consistently been on the wrong side of BLMDC history" and called for city officials to defund the police.

On Thursday, Floyd was remembered as a devoted father and family man in Minneapolis, in the first of several memorial services, where civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton made an appeal to all of Americans, with a reference to the white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck as he cried out that he could not breathe.

George Floyd Remembered as Good Father and Family Man Civil rights leader Al Sharpton leads public memorial for African American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, setting off nationwide protests

Thursday's service in Minneapolis included civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, several members of Congress, and celebrities, including Ludacris, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, and T.I.

At one point, the audience at the sanctuary at North Central University stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds - the length of time white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck.

VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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