The Minnesota attorney general on Wednesday announced new charges against all of the four sacked police officers who were present when American man George Floyd was killed on May 25, reported AFP. The charge against Derek Chauvin, a white man and former Minneapolis police officer, has been elevated to second-degree murder. The other three officers – Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – now face counts of aiding and abetting murder.
Last week, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. A charge of second-degree murder carries stiffer penalties such as a sentence of up to 40 years, 15 longer than for third-degree. The three other officers were not charged earlier.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the new charges were in the interests of justice, reported BBC. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said the latest charges were “another important step for justice”. Floyd’s family lawyer Benjamin Crump said it was a “significant step forward on the road to justice”. “This moment is a tipping point to change America,” said Crump. “All the world is watching.” Floyd’s son Quincy Mason said his family wants justice. “My father shouldn’t have been killed like this,” he added.
On May 26, Chauvin and the three other officials detained Floyd after he had allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a store. Outrage grew after a widely shared video showed Chauvin kneeling for almost nine minutes on Floyd’s neck. Floyd was seen gasping for breath, pleading with the officials saying, “I can’t breathe”, and died on the spot.
An autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression. The autopsy showed that the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and that the pressure of other officers’ knees on his back made it impossible for him to breathe, his attorney Ben Crump said.
Floyd’s death has sparked widespread outrage and protests across cities in the US. Hundreds of people on Friday rallied outside the White House, which was briefly put under lockdown with entry and exits being shut. Demonstrations have continued for the last eight days. Since May 26, at least 9,839 people have been arrested across the US during protests, according to CNN. Protestors were happy after the new charges were announced.
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Feel hopeful even as you may feel angry: Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday said the demands for justice and persistence of the protestors mark a new era in America, reported CNN. He urged young African Americans to “feel hopeful even as you may feel angry”.
Referring to the protests of the 1960s, Obama said, “I know enough about that history to say: There is something different here.” The former president told protestors that hitting the streets was not enough. He instead urged them to vote in the upcoming presidential elections. “I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter,” he added.