I Can’t Breathe! Local residents join national rally in a call to end police brutality toward African Americans

I Cant Breathe 2
Protesters confront a line of Dallas police officers at a march for George Floyd in Dallas. – Photo by Shelby Tauber/The Texas Tribune

 

By ROBYN H. JIMENEZ

The Dallas Examiner

 

Dallas streets have been filled with marchers who have been filled with grief and/or outrage at the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 25.

Local protesters joined a nationwide demonstration calling for the arrest of the former Minneapolis officers involved in the incident: Derek Chauvin, who was seen in the video kneeling on Floyd’s back for almost 9 minutes, along with the officers that aided and/or failed to intervene, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas K. Lane.

Footage from a video showed that Floyd was handcuffed and in police custody when officers forced his body to the ground and put him in a chokehold. It also showed Chauvin kneeling on his neck long after the point in which he lost consciousness, according to The Texas Tribune.

He could be heard calling out, “I can’t breathe … please, I can’t breathe.” and “Mom” – stirring reminders of the death of Eric Garner, who died when police placed him in a chokehold six years ago.

Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck long past the point when he lost consciousness, the Tribune reported.

The four officers were fired the following day. Four days later, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin had been arrested, charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers are still under investigation and not yet charged.

“America is well on its way to a sixth straight year of a thousand people shot to death by police,” said Collette Flanagan, founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, whose unarmed son was killed by Dallas police in 2013. “And countless others are beaten, kicked, choked, slapped, and otherwise abused by police officers. Our hearts go out to the families of George Floyd and the other families grieving today. We will not forget you. We must end this annual wave of official killings – and we will.”

There have been more than 375 homicides by U.S. law enforcement so far this year, according to the group.

Many countries throughout the world have joined the protests, calling for equality and justice for all Black people around the globe.

Some activists, enraged by Floyd’s death, said that the incident was the “last straw” as they called out the names of several unarmed Black individuals across America who had been killed by police officers – especially so soon after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey, Dreasjon “Sean” Reed and Breonna Taylor. Others were hurt and alarmed that, during a pandemic – which has disproportionately affected African American communities – Blacks would still have to fear being killed during an interaction with police.

“Over-policing, racial profiling, and use of deadly force are not reducing crime in our communities,” said Sara Mokuria, co-founder of MAPB, whose father was killed by Dallas police. “Raising living standards, increasing public health, and providing arts, recreation, and cultural experiences should be prioritized in city budgets – not cut as presently to provide more police.”

The protests started peaceful, but later became violent and destructive. To disperse crowd, police fired tear gas and rubber pellets, injuring protesters and bystanders, with one man losing an eye, according to the Tribune.

In what appeared to be an organized effort to either express anger over being unemployed during the COVID pandemic or to disrupt the protest and dilute the message, groups of people with their own agenda – notably most were not African American – began vandalizing and luting in downtown and northern Dallas areas.

Upon the arrest of those creating havoc upon the city, Dallas Chief of Police Reneé Hall noted that the majority were from other cities, mostly outside of Dallas County. One of the individuals arrested was not a Texas resident.

“Last night, a very large peaceful demonstration occurred downtown,” Mayor Eric Johnson noted in a prepared statement. “Those protests gave voice to the many people of color in this country who have long felt frustrations and pain that I understand and share.

“Unfortunately, last night’s protests attracted a small group of people who engaged in reckless behavior that had nothing to do with advancing human rights or civil rights. They exploited a collective cry for help and used it for their own personal gain by looting. They chose to tear down things at a time when we should be building each other up.

As Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Texas, activating the National Guard, Johnson signed an emergency declaration that gave City Manager Broadnax and Hall the authority to immediately begin a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. that includes Oak Lawn, Riverfront, Corinth and Peak, the area includes downtown, Deep Ellum, the Farmers Market, Cedars, Uptown and Victory Park, according to the Dallas Police Department.

The city later added West Village and Trinity Groves neighborhoods to the order.

Moreover, the city has urged businesses to close at 5 p.m. for the safety of all patrons and employees. It also strongly suggested that they not attempt to protect their property themselves, but instead call 911.

DPD officials issued a statement saying that they respect the right to march and hold vigils, but requested that they be peaceful and end before curfew.

Some demonstrations have been scheduled to be held at the Omni, Freedman’s Cemetery, Jack Evans Police HQ and Klyde Warren Park.

On Monday, marchers continued to protest peacefully. Some remained on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge after curfew and were arrested, taken away in police cares, buses and shuttles. DPD reported that they were taken in, identified, charged and released.

“We are outraged that people who were peacefully protesting 400 years of racism and decades of police brutality were denied the basic rights of free speech and to peacefully assemble,” said Brianna Brown, deputy director of the Texas Organizing Project, after two TOP organizers were arrested. And we condemn the police showing up to this protest in riot gear and shooting at peaceful protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas.

“Police Chief Renee Hall has shown that police departments only know how to do one thing: terrorize communities of color. We join other progressive organizations in calling on her and Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax to resign or be fired.”

Hall defended the arrest, the Tribune reported, saying that the protesters broke the law because they walked onto the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and blocked traffic after police warned them to stop.

“Some are not happy with the decisions I made yesterday,” Hall said. “I am not here to make people happy. My job and our job is to keep this city safe.”

Protest organizers have stated that they intend to continue their demonstrations until their various demands are made, most commonly, the indictment and prosecution of all officers involved in the death of Floyd. MoveOn has a petition on https://sign.moveon.org, directing the Minneapolis mayor to block the pensions of the officers involved, ban them from ever becoming police officers again, and have county attorney immediately charge all four officers with murder.

Most groups, in general, have called for swift accountability for all police violence against African Americans. Many are also demanding a ban on the use of knee holds and any holds similar to a choke hold by police officers. Some groups have added retraining officers in the use of de-escalation and negotiations.

“We need national standards for the use of deadly force, with specifics in federal legislation indicating when deadly force is not allowed,” said John Fullinwider, MAPB co-founder. “For example, when a subject is unarmed, fleeing or not using deadly force against officers. We also need national standards for training in the use of deadly force, with trainers vetted by civil rights experts within DOJ.”

As advocates continued to march and rally, civil rights and social justice groups have sent reminders of the COVID pandemic, urging demonstrators to social distance, wear masks, keep hand sanitizer on hand and those who feel ill should stay home. Some have also requested that police officers allow for social distancing when making arrests.

Advertisement

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*