Floyd’s brother pleads for peace; Trump takes combative tone
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Floyd’s brother pleads for peace; Trump takes combative tone

Terrence Floyd at scene of death says violence won’t ‘bring my brother back’ as US president berates governors as ‘weak’ for not cracking down harder on demonstrators

Terrence Floyd sits silently at the spot at where his brother George Floyd, encountered police and died while in their custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 1, 2020. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)
Terrence Floyd sits silently at the spot at where his brother George Floyd, encountered police and died while in their custody, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 1, 2020. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (AP) — George Floyd’s brother pleaded for peace in the streets Monday, saying destruction is “not going to bring my brother back at all,” while US President Donald Trump berated most of the nation’s governors as “weak” for not cracking down harder on the lawlessness that has convulsed cities from coast to coast.

The competing messages — one conciliatory, one bellicose — came as the US braced for another round of violence at a time when the country is already buckling because of the coronavirus outbreak and the Depression-level unemployment it has caused.

“We are a country that is scared. We are a country that is angry,” said Sam Page, county executive in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the city of Ferguson has been synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement since the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, in a clash with a white officer. “And we are a country that is holding out for the promise of justice for all.”

As Trump prepared to address the nation Monday, military police near White House moved directly in front of protesters, many of whom held up their hands. “Don’t shoot,” the protesters said.

About 1,000 protesters had gathered near Lafayette Park, which was completely barricaded. Lines of law enforcement officers stood between the barricades and protesters. Protesters at the park perimeter chanted at officers: “You are the threat.” They also told them: “Take a knee.”

Police begin to clear demonstrators as they protest the death of George Floyd, near the White House in Washington, June 1, 2020. (AP/Alex Brandon)

The National Guard presence in Washington was much more overt Monday than the day before. Beige hummers blocked several downtown intersections.

In Minneapolis, Floyd’s brother, Terrence, made an emotional plea at the site where Floyd was pinned to the pavement by an officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing.

“Let’s switch it up, y’all. Let’s switch it up. Do this peacefully, please,” Terrence Floyd said.

The crowd chanted, “What’s his name? George Floyd!” and “One down, three to go!” in reference to the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest. Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding that his colleagues be prosecuted, too. All four were fired.

The gathering was part rally and part impromptu eulogy as Floyd urged people to stop the violence and use their power at the ballot box.

“If I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are you all doing?” he said. “You all are doing nothing. Because that’s not going to bring my brother back at all.”

Demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, near the White House in Washington, June 1, 2020. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The country has been beset by angry demonstrations for the past week in some of the most widespread racial unrest in the US since the 1960s. Spurred in part by Floyd’s death, protesters have taken to the streets to decry the killings of black people by police.

On Monday, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who spilled onto an interstate highway in the heart of Philadelphia just before a 6 p.m. curfew took effect. The crowds led to the closure of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the main link from downtown Philadelphia to New Jersey suburbs. More than two dozen were arrested.

While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, others have descended into violence, leaving neighborhoods in shambles, stores ransacked, windows broken and cars burned, despite curfews around the country and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in at least 15 states.

Protesters set a truck on fire during a riot following the death of George Floyd, in Albany, New York, May 30, 2020. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Trump told the nation’s governors in a video conference that they they “look like fools” for not deploying even more National Guard troops. “Most of you are weak,” he said.

He added: “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, dismissed Trump’s comments as the “rantings of an insecure man trying to look strong after building his entire political career on racism.”

Former US vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, vowed to address institutional racism in his first 100 days in office. He met in person with black leaders in Delaware and also held a virtual meeting with big-city mayors.

Biden said hate emerges “when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate.”

Joe Biden speaks to members of the clergy and community leaders at Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Delaware, June 1, 2020. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Meanwhile, an autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation from neck and back compression, the family’s attorneys said.

That contradicts the official autopsy, which said he died from the effects of being restrained along with underlying health problems and potential intoxicants in his system. The official autopsy found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”

The second autopsy was done by a doctor who also examined the body of Eric Garner, a New York man who died in an officer’s chokehold six years ago.

Authorities in many cities have blamed the violence on outside agitators, though have provided little evidence to back that up.

But on Monday, federal authorities arrested a 28-year-old Illinois man, Matthew Lee Rupert, saying he had posted self-recorded video on his Facebook page last week that showed him in Minneapolis handing out explosive devices and encouraging people to throw them at law enforcement officers. The video also showed him attempting to light a business on fire, and looting, according to an FBI affidivit. Early Sunday, he posted more videos of himself in and around Chicago, saying “let’s start a riot.”

He was arrested in Chicago for violating the city’s curfew.

A protester runs past burning cars and buildings on Chicago Avenue, Saturday, May 30, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

As they girded for more violence, Washington and New York joined other cities in announcing curfews. The move followed a chaotic Sunday night in New York, where groups broke into Chanel, Prada and Rolex boutiques and electronics stores.

Hours before Washington’s 7 p.m. curfew was to go into effect, nearly a dozen National Guard vehicles rumbled through the White House grounds and exited opposite Lafayette Park, where crowds had gathered for another night of protests. On Sunday, police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of protesters in the park. They scattered to light fires in nearby streets.

At least 4,400 people nationwide have been arrested over the past week for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Kentucky, killed a man early Monday when they returned fire after someone in a large group shot at them, police said. In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence over the weekend, adding to deaths recorded in Detroit and Minneapolis.

While police in some areas tried to ease tensions by kneeling or marching in solidarity with the demonstrators, officers around the country were accused of treating protesters with the same kind of heavy-handed tactics that contributed to the unrest in the first place.

Cities struggled to keep police in line.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an officer was suspended for pushing a kneeling woman to the ground during a protest. In Atlanta, two officers were fired after bashing in the window of a car and using a stun gun on the occupants. In Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters, knocking two people to the ground.

In New York, the police commissioner said about six incidents were being investigated by the department’s internal affairs bureau, including a weekend confrontation in Brooklyn in which two police vehicles appeared to plow into a group of protesters. In another incident, an officer pointed a gun at protesters, drawing condemnation from the mayor.

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