Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

US protests: Council advances plan to dismantle Minneapolis Police

Protesters resisted when crews arrived with heavy equipment at an occupied protest zone in Seattle

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposal to change the city charter to allow the police department to be dismantled, following widespread criticism of law enforcement over the killing of George Floyd.

The 12-0 vote is just the first step in a process that faces significant bureaucratic obstacles to make the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say.

It came amid a spate of recent shootings in Minnesota’s largest city that have heightened many citizens’ concerns about talk of dismantling the department.

The proposed amendment next goes to a policy committee and to the city’s Charter Commission for a formal review, at which point citizens and city officials can also weigh in.

“I hope that the Charter Commission will recognise the moment that we are in and take our offer of support, however we can provide it, to expedite this process so that voters have a chance to have their voices heard on this important question and this important moment in our city’s history,” Council President Lisa Bender said.

The Minneapolis force has come under heavy pressure since Mr Floyd, an African American man in handcuffs, died on May 25 after a police officer pressed his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Activists have long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture, and earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department.

Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the council, said before the vote that the charter has been a barrier to the kinds of changes that citizens have demanded.

According to a draft posted online, the amendment would replace the department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritising a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”

The amendment goes on to say the director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.” It also provides for a division of licensed peace officers who would answer to the department’s director.

Meanwhile, a Minnesota judge on Friday rejected allowing cameras in the court for pretrial proceedings of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of Mr Floyd.

News media organizations as well as defence attorneys had requested the audio and visual recordings. But Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill rejected the request, noting the prosecution had objected.

The judge will rule later on whether cameras will be allowed at trial.

Seattle

Crews arrived with heavy equipment early on Friday at Seattle’s “occupied” protest zone, apparently ready to dismantle barriers set up by demonstrators, but halted work when demonstrators resisted, including by lying on top of some of the makeshift structures.

Stefanie Formas, chief of staff for Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the goal is to improve access for neighbourhood residents.

The collective of protesters, activists, educators and volunteers in the Capitol Hill Organised Protest was born after clashes with police who tear-gassed people protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Durkan has expressed support for the protest, calling it “a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world.”

But following several recent shootings in the area, Durkan said this week the city would wind down the protest zone, at first by encouraging demonstrators to leave, and that police would return to a nearby precinct they abandoned following clashes with demonstrators.

A Seattle city worker offers lying down protesters first aid for a minor scrape after workers and heavy equipment arrived at the Capitol Hill occupied protest zone. AP
A Seattle city worker offers lying down protesters first aid for a minor scrape after workers and heavy equipment arrived at the Capitol Hill occupied protest zone. AP

New York

Donald Trump on Thursday struck out at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio over plans to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on Fifth Avenue across the street from Trump Tower.

"Told that @NYCMayor Bill de Blasio wants to paint the fabled & beautiful Fifth Avenue, right in front of Trump Tower/Tiffany, with a big yellow Black Lives Matter sign," the US president tweeted.

The mayor's office had said on Wednesday the mural would be painted across from the president's skyscraper in Manhattan, where he stays when he visits his hometown.

Mr Trump continued, tweeting that New York officers were "furious" over alleged chants from protesters of "Pigs in a Blanket, Fry 'Em Like Bacon" which he said referred "to killing Police."

That chant is not among those commonly used by protesters in New York or elsewhere marching to support African American lives.

Updated: June 30, 2020 02:21 AM

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