Police Intensify Repression Of Protests Demanding Justice For George Floyd
Protesters in Baltimore demand justice for George Floyd. Ryan Harvey/Rebel Lens Baltimore

Photo: Protesters in Baltimore demand justice for George Floyd. Ryan Harvey/Rebel Lens Baltimore

On Saturday, May 30, people in cities across the United States took to the streets for the fourth night in a row demanding justice for George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police on Monday, May 25. Law enforcement responded with heavy handed tactics, using tear gas, flash-bang grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Looting and property damage was reported in multiple cities. Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Philadelphia were placed under curfew.

On Friday, Officer Derek Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd plead “I can’t breathe,” was arrested on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges. Many thought this would quell the expanding uprising but it did not. Protesters are demanding the arrest of three other officers seen in the video who did not stop Chauvin. Those officers have been fired and are being investigated.

The White House was forced into lockdown on Friday as hundreds of protestors stormed Pennsylvania Avenue.

Along with countless videos of police officers brutally attacking protesters, including multiple incidents of police driving into groups of protesters—an act that immediately calls to mind the Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacist attack—video has emerged of police targeting journalists.

LA Times reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske said police “fired tear gas at reporters and photographers at point blank range.”

Photojournalist Linda Tirado said she lost sight in one of her eyes after Minneapolis police shot her with a rubber bullet. 

In Louisville, Kentucky, Wave 3 News reporters Kaitlin Rust and James Dobson were shot with pepper balls from police while covering a protest live on air.

On Friday a CNN crew in Minneapolis were wrongfully arrested while live on air. 

In Baltimore, Maryland, which had an uprising of its own in 2015 when a Black man named Freddie Gray was tackled by police and had his spine broken and throat crushed, thousands took to the streets to demand justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality in a protest that criss-crossed much of the city and ended in front of City Hall.

Among those taking part in that protest earlier today in Baltimore was Tawanda Jones, the sister of Tyrone West, a Black man who was killed by Baltimore police and Morgan State University officers in 2013 during a traffic stop. Those who viewed the traffic stop said West was beaten and kicked by the police officers and that one officer, David Lewis, put his knees on Jones’ back.

When Jones saw the video of George Floyd’s death, she not only thought of New York’s Eric Garner, who, like Floyd, screamed “I can’t breathe,” but thought of her brother Tyrone because of the officer kneeling on the subdued man.

“When I first saw the video of George Floyd, I heard a grown man call for help saying ‘I can’t breathe,’” Jones told The Real News. “That hit home.”

Before the protest arrived at City Hall, some protesters split up, and Jones went with them to Baltimore’s Medical Examiner’s Office. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said he found no evidence Floyd died of “asphyxia”—the body losing oxygen as a result of an inability to breathe—even though Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Instead, underlying health issues were blamed for Floyd’s death.

For Jones, this also reminded her of her brother, whose autopsy also made claims that his death was a result of the extreme summer heat and pre-existing health issues rather than ”asphyxia.” Jones and her family challenged that medical examiner’s report and had a second one performed, which did indicate asphyxia. None of the officers involved in her brother’s death were ever charged.

“They are basically the reason why these killer cops get off,” Jones said, blaming medical examiners. “We talk about the blue code silence with the offers, it transfers over to the [Medical Examiner] too.”

While Jones protested at Baltimore’s Medical Examiner’s Office, police began gathering in front of City Hall. One of the officers posted there monitoring protesters was Jorge Omar Bernardez-Ruiz, one of the officers implicated in Tyrone West’s death. She was “outraged,” she said, “seeing someone that murdered my brother.”

Into the evening, the police presence in Baltimore grew and police officers released tear gas and fired rubber bullets at the group of approximately 200 protesters. More police in riot gear have been called in, and in the downtown area there are reports of property damage and attempts at looting.

“It’s amazing how white racist people can go into capitals and no one pulls a weapon, no one was shot, you don’t see pepper spray,” Jones said. “But when we go out there, because our bodies are being killed everyday, they still want to kill us. It is utterly ridiculous … George Floyd was lynched—it was a modern day lynching.”

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Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.

Brandon Soderberg is a Baltimore-based writer reporting on guns, drugs, and police corruption. He is the coauthor of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Corrupt Police Squad. Formerly, he was the editor-in-chief of the Baltimore City Paper. His work has appeared in The Intercept, VICE, The Appeal, and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @notrivia.