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PAIN AND PROTEST: Angry, battle-weary nation mourns police killing of George Floyd

LOS ANGELES — As the city prepared for its fourth consecutive night under curfew orders, unrest over the death of a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis May 25 was starting to subside June 3.

Although officials again called for a curfew to curtail violence and looting that began May 27 after the death of George Floyd, the start of the curfew was pushed back to 9 p.m. instead of the 6 p.m. start the previous three nights.

Floyd, 46, died after a Minneaplois police officer, Derek Chauvin, had placed his knee on Floyd’s throat as he lay on the ground in handcuffs. Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

Chauvin has since been charged with second degree murder and three officers who were with him are facing charges of aiding and abetting a murder.

All four officers have been dismissed from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Local community activist Najee Ali traveled to Minneapolis to participate in a protest for Floyd.

Among those joining the protest there  were Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, activist Tamika Mallory and actor Jamie Foxx.

“Floyd was essentially lynched in broad daylight by four police officers who felt that that they could get away with murder,” Ali said. “No one is above the law, especially our law enforcement officers who take an oath of duty and should be held to the highest moral standards.

“That won’t bring back George Floyd, but for all of us who value life and who stand for justice, we must also stand for truth and peace. There is only one conclusion that will satisfy everyone, that the officer be convicted of murder and his colleagues be arrested and charged as well.”

Floyd’s death has sparked global protests. Organized by Black Lives Matter, protests have been held in 75 cities, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., with protesters chanting and waving signs emblazoned with the slogans “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

In Los Angeles, trouble began May 27 when Black Lives Matters members and others paraded through downtown streets and tried to enter the Hollywood (101) Freeway.

Things escalated May 29 as police cars were set on fire, a police station was firebombed, buildings erupted in flames and looting continued. Tear gas and pepper spray were used to disperse crowds.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appealed to Gov. Gavin Newsom to bring in the National Guard May 30 and a countywide curfew began at 6 p.m.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore characterized the protests as “criminal acts” and more than 2,700 arrests were made as of June 2.

“We didn’t have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd,” Moore said. “We had people capitalizing. His death is on their hands, as much as it is those officers. “[Floyd’s] memory deserves a better Los Angeles, a better United States, and a better world. It is my hope, and every pure intention, to achieve just that.”

Moore later took back his statement that Floyd’s death was on the hands of the protesters and apologized for the remark.

Despite mostly peaceful protests, local law enforcement reported that outside agitators infiltrated the demonstrations and looted numerous stores along Melrose and Fairfax avenues and in Beverly Hills. Santa Monica, Van Nuys and Long Beach also reported mass looting as people broke store windows and hurled rocks and bottles. Nearly 3,000 people have been arrested.

On June 2, a peaceful demonstration gathered in front of Getty House in Hancock Park — where Mayor Garcetti lives — demanding justice for black people killed by police officers and the reallocation of city resources away from the Los Angeles Police Department.

The mayor was at City Hall for a 6 p.m. address when protesters chanted “defund the police,” and “[District Attorney] Jackie Lacey must go” and “racist cops have got to go.”

Black Lives Matter-LA co-founder Melina Abdullah said, “This whole issue of defunding the police is actually inclusive of George Floyd, but it’s also bigger than George Floyd.” Abdullah and other organizers are behind “the People’s Budget” that calls for funding social services, housing and transportation instead of funding police.

Floyd’s death has sparked a national dialogue on police brutality in the African-American community highlighting decades of unfair treatment at the hands of police.

Many Los Angeles residents referred to Floyd’s tragic death as a “modern-day lynching.”

Described as a “gentle giant,” Floyd, a former high school football star and rapper from Houston who was known as “Big Floyd,” once taped a video for youth encouraging them to denounce gun violence.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters issued a statement, saying “George Floyd’s murder is a painful and tragic indication that we have, in fact, entered into an era where some law enforcement officers, white supremacists and other radical extremists are feeling empowered to target, brutalize and kill unarmed African Americans with impunity.

“We think of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor and countless other African Americans who have been killed at the hands of officers who swore an oath to protect and serve their communities,” Waters added. “We’re finding that the justice system does not work. The justice system will find a way to protect those officers in most cases. They will find ‘justifiable homicide.’ And that’s what we’ve got to deal with.”

“I think that the officer who had his knee on [George Floyd’s] neck enjoyed doing what he was doing,” Waters continued. “I believe sometimes some of these officers leave home thinking, ‘I’m going to get me one today’. And I think this was his one…. He didn’t care that anyone was photographing him … and the officers who stood there and watched him are just as guilty as he is.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sent his condolences to the Floyd family. 

“As the father of two young black men, I can only imagine what you’re going through,” he said. “The epidemic of police shootings of unarmed African Americans is an unrelenting outrage, and people of every hue have every right to the anger and pain felt so deeply right now. Such lawless acts of state violence, witnessed this week, should never be normalized. We cannot and will not accept this injustice.”