Minneapolis police officers dressed in riot gear fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades into crowds of protesters that gathered late Tuesday to demand justice for the killing of George Floyd after video footage showed a cop kneeling on the back of the man's neck as he cried out, "I cannot breathe!"
Videos and photos posted to social media show people pouring milk into the eyes of demonstrators affected by tear gas as the chemical substance clouds the air, enveloping the thousands of protesters marching in the streets near the site of Floyd's killing.
"This is a disgusting display," said Jeremiah Ellison, a city council member representing Minneapolis Ward 5. "I'm here on the southside, helping people as I can with milk, water, and towels. So far, I have been unable to prevent the police from firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Moments ago, I held a towel to a teenage girl's head as blood poured from it."
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted that "shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed protesters when there are children present should never be tolerated. Ever."
"What is happening tonight in our city is shameful," Omar added. "Police need to exercise restraint, and our community needs space to heal."
I got hit w rubber bullet right after taking video of this mayhem scene. I was across the street from the precinct pic.twitter.com/qz1KHNADtQ
— Andy Mannix (@AndrewMannix) May 27, 2020
— YourBestBlackSelf (@LeslieMac) May 27, 2020
The massive protests erupted in the wake of video footage showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck as he lay handcuffed and face-first on the asphalt.
Floyd and onlookers repeatedly pleaded with the officer to take his knee off Floyd's neck, but he refused to do so until an ambulance arrived. By that point, Floyd had been unconscious for minutes. In a statement following the Monday night incident, the Minneapolis Police Department said they were responding to "a report of a forgery in progress" and claimed Floyd's death was caused by an unspecified "medical incident."
Shortly after video of the incident emerged and spread rapidly across social media, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firing of four officers who were on the scene.
"It is the right decision for our city, the right decision for our community. It is the right decision for the Minneapolis Police Department," Frey said at a press conference Tuesday. "We've stated our values, and ultimately we need to live by them."
Lots of violent images being shared, this is the protest before cops fired gas. They hired the first shot. Not us. But they dont hear us when we march so we fight back. #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter #Minneapolis pic.twitter.com/jCwsu3D6QY
— Triple H (@HenryHuber) May 27, 2020
Hours after the firing of the four cops involved, this is the south Minneapolis intersection near where George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day when an officer knelt on his neck. Protest has the whole block at a standstill. Vid: @KSTP pic.twitter.com/bOqYlyEoYe
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) May 27, 2020
In an appearance on CNN late Tuesday, Floyd's family members said termination of the officers is not enough.
"Firing them is a good start, but we want to see justice for our family. We want to see them charged. We want to have them arrested," said Tera Brown, Floyd's cousin. "What they did was murder."
“He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” says Tera Brown, cousin of George Floyd, who said he couldn’t breathe as a police officer used a knee to hold him down by the neck. Brown said the four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death should be “charged with murder.” pic.twitter.com/ESXMVMdcXH
— CNN (@CNN) May 27, 2020
As the demonstrations kicked off Tuesday, Democratic members of Congress representing Minnesota sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman demanding a thorough investigation into Floyd's killing and accountability for the officers involved.
"Mr. Floyd's death appears to be yet another horrifying instance of excessive force leading to the death of African Americans across this country," wrote Rep. Omar, Rep. Betty McCollum, Sen. Tina Smith, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. "In addition to the obvious state laws that will govern this case, federal law makes it a crime for a state or local police officer to willfully violate a person's constitutional rights, which includes the use of excessive force."