The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned Thursday the killing by US police of an unarmed, handcuffed Black man whose death was captured on video and led to violent protests in the state of Minneapolis.
“This is the latest in a long line of killings of unarmed African Americans by US police officers and members of the public,” Michelle Bachelet said reacting to the killing. “I am dismayed to have to add George Floyd’s name to that of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and many other unarmed African Americans who have died over the years at the hands of the police.”
She also named other victims, including Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin who were killed by non-law enforcement members of the public.
Floyd’s death Monday sparked outrage and violent protests in Minneapolis with demonstrators burning business and surrounding a police precinct.
Bachelet said she understood demonstrators’ anger but urged residents in Minneapolis and elsewhere to protest peacefully.
“Violence and destruction of property won’t solve the problem of police brutality and enshrined discrimination,” said the rights chief. “I urge protestors to express their demands for justice peacefully, and I urge the police to take the utmost care not inflame the current situation even more with any further use of excessive force.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced Tuesday that four officers involved in the arrest have been fired.
Video of Floyd’s arrest captured by a bystander and posted on Facebook appeared to show the victim pinned to the ground, repeatedly pleading “I can’t breathe” for nearly four minutes as an officer holds his neck to the ground with his knee. He appeared to be in handcuffs in the video footage.
Floyd appeared to lose consciousness, but the officer maintained his position on the victim.
His pulse was checked about three minutes after he stopped gasping for air while the officer continued to press his knee on Floyd’s neck, but it is unclear from the video what the assessment was at that point. He is then loaded on to a stretcher and moved into an ambulance.
He did not appear to be conscious.
Bachelet said US authorities must take serious action to stop such killings and ensure justice when they do occur.
“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,” she said.
The UN official welcomed the announcement by US federal authorities that an investigation will be prioritized.
“But in too many cases in the past, such investigations have led to killings being deemed justified on questionable grounds, or only being addressed by administrative measures,” she said, and added that entrenched and pervasive racial discrimination plays in such deaths must also be fully examined, recognized, and dealt with, she said.
Floyd’s family said they want the officers charged with murder.
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