Four police officers in Minneapolis were sacked Tuesday as a video showing one of them kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed black man who later died sparked street protests in the midwestern US city.
Protesters, many wearing face masks because of the coronavirus outbreak, held signs saying “Justice for George Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter” during a rally near the scene of Monday’s death in custody.
In the video filmed by a bystander, a shirtless Floyd — thought to be in his 40s — is pinned on the ground by a white officer who kneels on his neck for more than five minutes.
“Your knee in my neck. I can’t breathe… Mama. Mama,” Floyd pleaded.
Floyd slowly grew silent and motionless, unable to move even as the officers taunted him to “get up and get in the car.”
He was taken to hospital where he was later declared dead.
After firing the four officers involved, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey expressed outrage as calls rose for them to be prosecuted for murder.
“What I saw was wrong at every level,” he said of the video.
“For five minutes, we watched as a white officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man,” Frey added.
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he had been retained by Floyd’s family.
In a statement, Crump said Floyd had been stopped by police over a forgery accusation, a charge often used for writing bad checks or using fake banknotes for purchases.
“This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning on a non-violent charge,” he said.
Floyd’s death recalled the 2014 choking death of New Yorker Eric Garner by police, who was being detained for illegally selling cigarettes.