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Minneapolis police station torched as protests grow over police killing of black man

A police precinct was burning in Minneapolis late Thursday as protests over the death of George Floyd raged on for a third straight day.

Protesters in the US state of Minnesota set on fire a police station in the city of Minneapolis on Thursday in a third straight night of mass protests to express their fury over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck while he was handcuffed.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the National Guard to assist police as city, state and federal law enforcement officials sought to ease racial tensions sparked by Monday’s fatal arrest of 46-year-old Floyd.

More than 500 Guard members were activated and sent to Minneapolis and several surrounding cities. It was the first time the Minnesota National Guard has been activated for a civil disturbance in 34 years.

Four city police officers involved in Floyd’s death, including the one shown pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as he lay on the ground, moaning, “please, I can’t breathe,” were fired from their jobs the next day.

However, prosecutors have not announced charges, asking the people of Minneapolis for patience instead. 

Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd's death, as anger over the latest police killing was fueled by uncertainty over the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the US.

Several buildings in Minneapolis were set on fire. The blazes included one at the Third Police Precinct station, the epicenter of the three nights of demonstrations, after crowds of protesters broke in and set fires inside and behind the building.

Fires burned on both sides of the police station as demonstrators pushed down temporary fencing and occupied property at the precinct. Officers fired tear gas from the ground and a rooftop.

In the neighboring city of St. Paul, clouds of smoke hung in the air as police armed with batons and wearing gas masks and body armor patrolled the streets.

Sympathy protests erupted in Los Angeles, California, as well as in Denver, Colorado, with hundreds of demonstrators blocking highway traffic in both cities.

In a bizarre tweet on Thursday, President Donald Trump blamed the protesters and the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he said on Twitter.

Floyd’s brutal killing is reminiscent of the killing of African-American Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by a white police officer in New York City in 2014.

Garner’s dying words of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement that formed amid a wave of killings of African-Americans by police.

Police-involved shootings and killings of unarmed black men in the hands of white police officers have led to mass protests across the US in recent years and the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Officers involved in killing previously reviewed for use of excessive force

Two Minneapolis police officers captured in video footage detaining Floyd were previously involved in other violent incidents while on duty, according to a database that documents instances of US police brutality.

Video footage showed Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police department, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes as he pleaded for his life. Floyd died following the encounter.

Chauvin, who joined the force in 2001, had already been involved in several incidents of police violence, according to a database by Minneapolis’ Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for the arrest and criminal prosecution of Chauvin. “Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?” Frey asked. “We cannot turn a blind eye, it is on us as leaders to see this for what it is and call it what it is.”

Police department records posted online show 18 internal affairs complaints filed against Chauvin, 16 of which were closed without discipline.

UN human rights chief blasts ‘pervasive’ US police violence, racial discrimination

Floyd’s death has gained international attention. On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged US authorities to deal with “entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination” in America’s criminal justice system.

“Procedures must change, prevention systems must be put in place, and above all police officers who resort to excessive use of force, should be charged and convicted for the crimes committed”, the High Commissioner said in a statement.

“The role that entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination plays in such deaths must also be fully examined, properly recognized and dealt with,” she added.

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