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Ohio police officers charged with assault, 'dereliction of duty' during George Floyd protests

Protesters confront police officers standing in the middle of the street in Columbus, Ohio, during a demonstration against the murder of George Floyd under police custody, May 30, 2020. (Photo by Getty Images)

Three police officers in the US state of Ohio are facing criminal charges for using improper force against protesters during last year’s racial justice demonstrations in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of African American George Floyd.

The Columbus Division of Police said in a press release that it had been informed of charges filed against two officers and a sergeant, who have each been “relieved” of “their regular assignment and authority to take police action,” American media reported on Thursday.

“The officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” the police department added. “Once the criminal investigation is concluded, the Columbus Division of Police will conduct an administrative investigation.”

Special prosecutor Kathleen Gerber and independent investigator Rick Wozniak filed the charges. They were asked by the city of Columbus to investigate allegations of excessive use of police force against protesters during last year’s demonstrations.

Officers Traci Shaw and Phillip Wallis have been charged with assault, dereliction of duty and interfering with the civil rights of protesters. Sgt. Holly Kanode, meanwhile, faces charges of dereliction of duty and lying about a protester’s actions toward another officer.

The special prosecutor said in a statement that she was “asked by the City of Columbus to independently evaluate the allegations of police misconduct from last summer’s protests so that both citizens and police officers are held to the same standard of accountability.”

“We appreciate the community’s patience over the past year while we have made continued attempts to interview witnessing officers and identify officers committing the alleged misconduct during the protests," she said.

She went on to say that her team was “continuing the investigations into possible misconduct by other officers," and “will also continue with investigations with respect to identified officers pending the arbitrator's decision."

The murder of Floyd led to unprecedented demonstrations last year, and the trial of the cop who had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes made headline news nationwide.

Floyd died on May 25 last year after Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck as he was being held face-down on the ground in handcuffs. Floyd was arrested by Minneapolis police after a grocery store employee reported that he had allegedly used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

Body-camera footage provided by prosecutors show Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, even after he had stopped moving. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Violent attacks on people of color in the US have witnessed a disconcerting surge in recent years, which activists have attributed to former US President Donald Trump's racist rhetoric.

While Floyd’s killing brought the issue back into focus, becoming an emblem of the Black Lives Matter movement, it has not stopped trigger-happy cops from unleashing terror on hapless minorities, including African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

In a recent interview with Press TV, US-based journalist and political analyst Dr. AbayomiAzikwe said the surge in violence against people of color in the US is a systemic problem rooted in the legacy of slavery and legalized segregation in the country

Commenting on protests in the wake of Wright’s killing at a traffic stop on Sunday, he said these “social dynamics will continue to unfold in 2021.”

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