US rocked by incidents of police brutality in wake of George Floyd protests

5 June 2020, 14:58

Police has been accused of multiple examples of excessive force
Police has been accused of multiple examples of excessive force. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

US police have been accused of using excessive force on activists taking part in demonstrations in US cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

Worldwide protests were sparked following the death of Mr Floyd, a black man who died after his neck was knelt on by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

His death has led to a wider discussion of how black people are treated by police, and protests have now been raging across the US for ten days.

In some cities, protests have descended into violence, but with video cameras in every pocket of the protesters the footage is being shared across the country in the blink of an eye.

But a number of incidents showing police using violent methods against peaceful protesters have spread on social media, raising questions about how officers deal with large crowds.

Tear gas has become a common site on the streets of the United States
Tear gas has become a common site on the streets of the United States. Picture: PA
It is now being spread on social media
It is now being spread on social media. Picture: PA

In a number of states, tear gas and rubber bullets have been routinely used against protesters - even if they are demonstrating peacefully.

On Monday, protesters who had gathered outside the White House were targeted by police and the Secret Service with the weaponry to clear the area, all so Donald Trump could hold a photo opportunity at a nearby Church.

Video broadcast live to the world showed officers suddenly advancing on the crowds as they chanted "Don't shoot", before deploying the tear gas and a hail of rubber bullets on people running away.

In Buffalo, New York, two officers have been suspended after an elderly man hit his head on the pavement after being pushed.

The police department originally claimed he "tripped and fell" during the protests, but they suspended the officers and launched an investigation after the video emerged on social media.

In the Williamsburg region of New York City, police were also filmed arresting a badly injured protester and repeatedly making him stand up.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has defended the police, saying the police were not being forceful with citizens "for no reason", and if they did "it's wrong".

But he has since condemned the aforementioned incidents, and yesterday tweeted: "Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law."

Earlier in the week, the NYPD was criticised for "driving into protesters"as people can be heard screaming.

LaToya Ratlieff suffered a cracked skull after a rubber bullet hit her head in Fort Lauderdale while she was protesting peacefully
LaToya Ratlieff suffered a cracked skull after a rubber bullet hit her head in Fort Lauderdale while she was protesting peacefully. Picture: Getty

In Fort Lauderdale, LaToya Ratlieff suffered a cracked skull after a rubber bullet hit her head.

She said she had been protesting peacefully and tried to leave after the police deployed tear gas.

But she as badly injured when officers opened fire, the Miami Herald reported.

In an Instagram post, she said officers left her bleeding on the ground, and only got to safety thanks to the kindness of strangers.

"I would’ve continue to lay on the ground while the cops watched me bleeding. I was walking away. I was peaceful and I was still attacked," she added.

Six officers have also been suspended in Atlanta after using excessive force on a young black couple who had got caught in traffic on their way home from buying groceries.

Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young were held at gunpoint by officers, despite repeatedly asking what was happening and not being violent.

Two of the six officers, Ivory Streeter, who is charged with aggravated assault and pointing a gun at another person and Mark Gardner, who is charged with aggravated assault, have been fired.

The other officers have also been charged.

Roland Claud was charged with criminal trespass; Lonnie Hood, with aggravated assault and a count of battery; Armon Jones, with aggravated battery and aiming a pistol at another person; and Willie Sauls, with aggravated assault and criminal trespass. Messiah needed 20 stitches on his arm after the incident, and had a taser fired at him.

The UK Embassy in the US has raised the issue of police conduct during the protests, in particular the treatment of British journalists.

it comes after Adam Gray, a photo journalist from the UK working in New York, was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly as he was covering the riots.

Despite telling police he was a working journalist and showing his press pass, he was thrown to the ground by police and taken into custody.

He said he was held for hours in a crammed police cell, where nobody could observe social distancing rules.

US Press Freedom Tracker, who are collating reports of attacks on journalists during the protests, have so far recorded 300 incidents.

Of these, 160 have been assaults by police, and 49 arrests.

Photo journalists Linda Tirado lost the sight in her left eye after being shot in the face with a rubber bullet on Sunday, despite identifying herself as press to officers.

She said she was taking pictures when police deployed tear gas, and was shot after she put on goggles in an attempt to protect herself.

She said it felt like her face "exploded" when she was hit.

A black CNN reporter was arrested live on air last week in Minneapolis, where the demonstrations originated.

CNN broadcast correspondent Omar Jimenez was handcuffed by two police officers in protective gear and lead away, despite repeatedly identifying himself as a reporter and complying with police orders.

His crew were also arrested shortly afterwards.

The group were later released without charge, and received an apology from Minnesota's Governor.

The Australian Prime Minister has also called for an inquiry after two Australian journalists were assaulted by police live on morning TV.

Channel 7 News US correspondent Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers were reporting from Washington DC on morning programme Sunrise, when Mr Myers was punched with a riot shield.

Ms Brace was then hit with a baton as she fled, and both she and Mr Myers were hit with rubber bullets.

Australian PM Scott Morrison has told the crew they would have his full support should they wish to pursue a complaint, and has instructed his nation's embassy in the US to investigate.