Police officers across the US take a knee to honour George Floyd and the protests

1 June 2020, 12:54

Officers in Portland (left), New York (centre) and Boston (right) took the knee for protesters
Officers in Portland (left), New York (centre) and Boston (right) took the knee for protesters. Picture: Various
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Police officers across the US have been filmed taking a knee in honour of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in custody, and in solidarity with protesters demanding racial inequalities be addressed.

In New York, protesters cheered and applauded as NYPD officers knelt while the names of black men and women who have died at the hands of the police were read out.

"This is so good. Thank you!" one person is heard shouting.

In response to the video, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was "easy to look past each other in these moments.

He added: "It’s easy to think nothing can change. But step by step change is happening. This is what happens when police and community see each other’s humanity."

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Officers in riot gear in Boston shook hands and chatted with protesters as they also knelt in front of them.

One was seen banging his baton on the ground in time with the chants: "Take the knee."

A police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, was pictured doing the same thing amidst a group of protesters.

Ferguson was central to huge demonstrations against police brutality in 2014 after a white police officer shot dead an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in the street.

The move to kneel as a sign of solidarity was first started by American football star Colin Kaepernick back in 2016 when he took a knee during the US national anthem.

His move was one in protest against police brutality but was - at the time - criticised for politicising sport.

READ MORE: Shop owner who called police on George Floyd says he won't again until they 'stop killing innocent people'

In response, the NFL legend said he did not want to stand up to "show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour."

He added: "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

The move has since been revived by protesters across the US to demand an end to racial discrimination, and in angry response to the death of George Floyd.

Video of his death showed an unarmed and handcuffed Mr Floyd laying face down on a street in Minneapolis shortly after he was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit note in a shop.

A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, is seen pressing his knee into Mr Floyd's neck for at least eight minutes, despite him warning that he couldn't breathe.

Chauvin has since been arrested and charged for third-degree murder, but the incident has sparked wider protests across the country and called for further debate on racist practices in the US justice system.

READ MORE: Twenty-three arrests as thousands of protesters honour George Floyd in London

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Many officers across the country have been keen to show their support for the protests, and to separate themselves from the behaviour of Chauvin and the like.

Another video going viral in recent days shows a sheriff in Flint, Michigan, telling protesters: "The only reason we're here is to make sure that you've got a voice."

Taking off his helmet and putting down his baton, he added: "Don't think for a second that [Chauvin] represents who these cops are all over the county and around this nation."

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"We go out there to help people, not do that nonsense."

In response to protesters beginning to chant: "Walk with us," the sheriff says: "Let's walk!" and the group march away together.