The American state of Minnesota Wednesday made new charges in the May 25th death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police.
The state’s attorney general Keith Ellison said the third degree murder charge against police officer Derek Chauvin had been changed to second degree murder, which carries heavier penalties.
He said the state had also charged three additional officers involved in the arrest, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, with aiding and abetting second degree murder.
A video recording of the arrest shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes straight. Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” and, “Please, I can’t breathe.” Voices of bystanders also are heard telling the officer to get off Floyd’s neck.
Floyd was pronounced dead a short time later.
The Minneapolis police department dismissed the four officers from the force the following day.
Protests began to break out in cities across the country immediately. They have continued every day since.
During his announcement, Ellison called the protests “dramatic and necessary,” saying Floyd “should be here and he is not.”
“His life had value, and we will seek justice.”
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family, praised the new charges as “a significant step forward on the road to justice.” Crump said Ellison had told the family he would continue his investigation and could increase the charge to first-degree murder with more evidence.
Earlier Wednesday, Floyd’s family visited the site where Floyd died. They told supporters, “We are demanding justice.”
The state of Minnesota has also opened a civil rights investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a pattern of discrimination against minorities.
Although protests have continued, the acts of violence and lawlessness at earlier sites seems to have decreased. Curfews and efforts by protesters to calm the crowds were credited with preventing more widespread damage to businesses in New York and other states overnight.
“Last night we took a step forward in moving out of this difficult period we’ve had the last few days and moving to a better time,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Police in the city said almost 280 people were arrested on protest-related charges Tuesday night, compared with 700 a day earlier. Nationwide, more than 9,000 have been arrested in connection with the unrest.
In Philadelphia, a statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo was removed by the city early Wednesday after repeatedly being targeted by vandals. Rizzo presided over a police force widely accused of racism and violence in the 1970s.
From the Vatican, Pope Francis said he has ’’witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest” in the U.S. The pontiff said, “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism...”
I'm Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
abet - v. to help, encourage, or support someone in a criminal act
kneel - v. to move your body so that one or both of your knees are on the floor
handcuff - v. to put handcuffs on (someone)
dramatic - adj. sudden and extreme; greatly affecting people's emotions
significant - adj. large enough to be noticed or have an effect
pattern - n. something that happens in a regular and repeated way
vandal - n. a person who deliberately destroys or damages property
tolerate - v. to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done