World

‘I can’t breathe’ slogan at US protests

By AAP Newswire

Protests over the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer have spread across the nation, with 'I can't breathe' becoming a rallying cry.

Eric Garner uttered those words six years ago, locked in a police chokehold. It became a rallying cry after his death for demonstrators across the country who protested the killings of African Americans by police.

George Floyd uttered the same words, while handcuffed and pinned at the neck under the knee of a white police officer, galvanising the movement anew and prompting mass protests around the country.

The swift firing of the officers involved, the empathetic response from the Minneapolis mayor who also called for criminal charges, and the unusual public criticism of the officer's actions from law enforcement nationwide have done nothing to quell the anger or calls for justice.

Floyd's death came after Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death in Georgia by a former district attorney investigator and his son, who were not arrested until after video emerged months later.

An EMT in Kentucky, Breonna Taylor, was killed in March when three officers entered her apartment by force to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation.

The protests that began with chanting and marching in Minneapolis the day after the disturbing video emerged that showed Floyd pinned for eight minutes have grown to mass demonstrations, some violent, in at least twelve states.

Outrage was further inflamed when President Donald Trump tweeted "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

About 13 hours after his provocative tweet, he took to Twitter again to claim that he wasn't suggesting the shooting of rioters. Instead, he said he was referring to gun violence that has been spurred by the unrest.

The Senate Judiciary committee announced on Friday it would hold a hearing on police use of force.

Civil rights attorneys in the three recent cases said what inspires the anger is, in part, that authorities initially propagated narratives that Arbery, Taylor, Floyd were responsible for their own deaths before video and 911 calls showed otherwise.

Garner had been arrested on charges of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a non-violent crime, and cried out "I can't breathe" 11 times on a Staten Island footpath. The officers involved were not charged; the one who performed the chokehold was fired five years later.