At least four people have been arrested at a heated protest in Union Square, New York on Thursday evening, the latest in a string of nationwide demonstrations sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gothamist reports.
Hundreds of people streamed into the Manhattan Park on Thursday afternoon for the rally, where they were met with a massive and "aggressive" police presence, according to observers at the scene.
"It keeps flaring up. There have been about seven or eight arrests," photographer Dee Delgado told Gothamist. "I just witnessed an officer put his knee on somebody's neck."
According to a police scanner, one officer was struck with a garbage can and suffered minor injuries.
Videos show protesters chanting "I Can't Breathe" — the final words of both Eric Garner and now Floyd, who died on Monday after a Minneapolis officer, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
That officer seen in that video and three others involved in the lethal stop have since been fired (by comparison, it took more than five years for Garner's killer, Daniel Pantaleo, to lose his job; none of the other officers involved in Garner's death faced discipline.)
The killing of Floyd has set off protests and riots — met with a heavy-handed police response — in Minneapolis over the last two nights. Other protests have since broken out in Los Angeles and Memphis. In a tweet on Thursday, NYPD Commissioner said that "what we saw in Minnesota was deeply disturbing," though it wasn't immediately clear if he was referring to the protests or Floyd's death. Separately, the NYPD's press office confirmed he was referring to Floyd's death, not the protests.
In addition to Thursday's protest, a "WE CAN’T BREATHE Rally + Vigil" is planned for Foley Square on Friday at 4 p.m., and another demonstration is being organized for Friday night outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Gatherings of more than ten people are still banned in New York City due to social distancing rules, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the NYPD will continue to enforce against large events. A spokesperson for the police department could not immediately provide the charges of the four people arrested.
According to Delgado, a majority of the protesters were wearing masks. As of 6 p.m., the demonstration appeared to be "escalating," he said.
George Floyd's brother calls for justice: "Arrest those officers so my family and the world can have closure"
George Floyd's brother Philonise said black Americans are "tired of seeing the same thing every day" when it comes to how people of colour are treated in the US, CNN reports.
"My story will never change. Everybody's reacting off of the pain. Black men dying every day. They're tired of seeing the same thing every day. Everyone wants justice. Justice for black people, black lives matter," Philonise Floyd told CNN tonight. "I want justice, and I'm not going to stop until I get the death penalty for those officers."
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25 after pleading for help as a police officer used his knee on Floyd's neck to pin him — unarmed and handcuffed — to the ground in Minneapolis. His death sparked outrage and protests across the country, demonstrations that continued today.
Philonise Floyd said he has yet to sleep in four days due to his brother's death.
"Those officers they're at home sleeping. Nah, I can't stand for that. They need to be locked up tonight. I want justice. Arrest those officers so my family and the world can have closure," Philonise Floyd said.