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People look on as a construction site burns in a large fire near the Third Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Calls for Peace—But Mostly Justice—as Minneapolis Erupts in Anger Over Police Killing of George Floyd

"We share these painful emotions and demand justice, but we also urge everyone who wishes to raise their voice to engage in peaceful protests and observe social distancing," Floyd's family and attorney said in a statement.

Jake Johnson

Protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted across Minneapolis Wednesday night as thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets and demanded that the officers responsible be arrested and charged with murder.

The demonstrations began early Wednesday as protesters gathered outside of the Third Precinct police headquarters in Minneapolis and demanding the arrest of Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng, the four officers who were on the scene Monday when Floyd was initially detained. Video footage released Tuesday shows Chauvin kneeling on the back of Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes while ignoring the handcuffed man's repeated pleas for his life.

"They murdered my brother," Bridgett Floyd, Floyd's sister, told NBC Wednesday morning. "He was crying for help."

Surveillance footage of the moments leading up to Floyd's arrest from a nearby store cast doubt on the Minneapolis Police Department's claim that Floyd was resisting as officers tried to detain him for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a local grocery store. The four officers were wearing body cams, according to the Minneapolis Police Department, but that footage has not yet been released.

The protests escalated rapidly Wednesday night as police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators from rooftops and hurled tear gas into crowds as buildings were set ablaze, rocks were hurled at the windows of the Third Precinct building, and stores were ransacked. One person was shot and killed by a store owner.

"A group of officers stood in front of a nearby precinct and tried to disrupt the crowd with flash bang grenades and rubber bullets," the Washington Post reported. "At times, the tear gas was so thick it wafted down neighborhood streets where people standing in their front yards were coughing and wiping at their eyes."

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the majority of demonstrators were peaceful though media coverage of the protests focused on the fires and destruction.

As the demonstrations spread across Minneapolis Wednesday, Floyd's family and Minnesota lawmakers called for peace and echoed the protesters' demands that the officers responsible for Floyd's death be brought to justice.

"The community is understandably and rightfully upset by the wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, and their grief and outrage are pouring out onto the streets of Minneapolis," Floyd's family and their attorney said in a statement Wednesday. "We share these painful emotions and demand justice, but we also urge everyone who wishes to raise their voice to engage in peaceful protests and observe social distancing."

"We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we must not endanger others during this pandemic," the statement continued. "We will demand and ultimately force lasting change by shining a light on treatment that is horrific and unacceptable and by winning justice."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) echoed the calls for peaceful protest even as she acknowledged the justified anger of demonstrators.

"Our anger is just. Our anger is warranted. And our priority right now must be protecting one another," Omar tweeted. "We should and must protest peacefully. But let us end the cycle of violence now."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, said during a press conference earlier Wednesday that he has "wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?"

"If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now," said Frey. "And I cannot come up with a good answer to that."

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