Democratic US politicians urge police reforms as protestors march for 11th day

New York, New York, United States of AmericaUpdated: Jun 06, 2020, 08:31 AM IST


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District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with US President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches, had the slogan "Black Lives Matter" painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.

Prominent Democratic politicians on Friday embraced the cause of US protesters angered by the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody, adopting their slogans and announcing reforms as tensions remained high in major cities.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with US President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches, had the slogan "Black Lives Matter" painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.

In Minneapolis, where 46-year-old George Floyd died on May 25 after a police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke holds, although the ordinance must be approved by a judge.

Separate autopsies conducted by the Hennepin County Medical examiner and a team hired by Floyd's family each found that he died from asphyxiation.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he would bar a state police training agency from teaching a restraint technique, sometimes called a "sleeper hold," that involves restricting the carotid artery in the neck.

And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing so-called "Say Their Name" reforms including making police disciplinary records publicly available and banning chokeholds.

"Mr. Floyd's murder was the breaking point," Cuomo, also a Democrat, said in a written statement. "People are saying enough is enough, we must change."

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a videotaped message, said the NFL had made mistakes in not listening to players and it would now "encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest" against racism.

The NFL has been locked in an ongoing debate with players over kneeling protests during the national anthem before games, a practice popularised by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is black, in 2016 to protest racial injustice and police brutality.


Black Lives Matter activists have also called for cities to defund police departments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who in April proposed increasing law enforcement funding, this week reversed course and said he would seek some $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department.

After video footage from upstate New York raised further questions about the handling of demonstrators by law enforcement, two Buffalo police officers seen on Thursday shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground were suspended and placed under investigation.

All 57 members of a police tactical unit quit the unit to protest their treatment, local media said Friday.

Protests over the death of Floyd have rocked cities including Atlanta, Denver, Detroit as well as many smaller communities.

The demonstrations have erupted as Americans and businesses struggle to recover from sweeping lockdowns imposed by state and local officials due to the coronavirus. Infectious disease experts have said that the protests could spark a new outbreak of COVID-19.

On Friday marches and gatherings took place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, New York and Denver among other places. Protesters also massed again in the rain in front of the White House. The nighttime protests were largely peaceful.

In Washington, the city installed a street sign for "Black Lives Matter Plaza" at the intersection of H and 16th Streets near the White House.

"Breonna Taylor, on your birthday, let us stand with determination," Bowser, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter in reference to a 26-year-old black woman who was shot dead by Louisville, Kentucky police in March. "Determination to make America the land it ought to be."

The mayor and Trump, a Republican, have bickered publicly over the president's use of federal law enforcement agencies and military police to shut down protests.

US Park Police fired smoke grenades and chemical irritant "pepper balls" to break up a peaceful rally on Monday night so that Trump could walk from the White House to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.

"The incompetent Mayor of Washington, D.C., @MayorBowser, who's budget is totally out of control and is constantly coming back to us for 'handouts', is now fighting with the National Guard, who saved her from great embarrassment," Trump responded on Twitter.

On Friday, a US official said the Pentagon would send back the remaining 900 active-duty troops who had been deployed to the Washington, D.C., area.

Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, was cheered on Friday by an unexpected jump in US employment in May, defying predictions of further job losses inflicted by the pandemic.

The president said Floyd might be pleased by the jobs report. "Hopefully, George is looking down right now, and saying, 'This is a great thing that's happening for our country,'" he said.

That drew a rebuke from former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who noted that Floyd's last words were "I can't breathe" as a police officer kneeled on his neck.

"For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd, I frankly, think is despicable," Biden said at an event in Delaware.