Tear gas, chaos, rain: Protests rage after man dies in Mpls. police custody

People run in the street.
Tear gas is sprayed into the crowd Tuesday, May 26, 2020, after protestors vandalize the Minneapolis Police Department 3rd precinct. A protest was held to demand justice in the death of George Floyd. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. A video taken by a bystander shows a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck. The four officers involved have been fired.
Courtney Perry for MPR News

Updated: 9:50 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters lined a south Minneapolis intersection Tuesday night calling for justice in the Memorial Day death of George Floyd after a video surfaced showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the man told the officer repeatedly he couldn’t breathe.

The video sparked outrage across the country, and led to the firing of four officers tied to the incident. It also set triggered waves of anger that led to violent clashes in the rain Tuesday night between cops and protesters in south Minneapolis.

Protesters, some carrying signs saying "I can't breathe,'' spilled onto the street in front of Cup Foods, in 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South, where police were called about 8 p.m. Monday on a report of a forgery, police have said.

Crowds marched about 2 1/2 miles to a city police precinct, with some protesters damaging windows, a squad car and spraying graffiti on the building. A line of police in riot gear eventually confronted the protesters, firing tear gas.

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Confrontations were still happening after 9 p.m. It wasn’t clear if anyone had been arrested in the chaos.

Floyd’s death is under investigation by the FBI for possible civil rights violations. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also investigating, which is standard procedures in such cases.

Minneapolis police initially said that they’d been called to the Cup Foods scene at about 8 p.m. Monday on a report of a forgery in progress. A statement said Floyd physically resisted officers’ attempts to take him into custody.

“Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” a spokesperson said.

That response kindled even more anger as people saw the video of Floyd subdued and handcuffed face down on the ground for several minutes pleading with the officer that he was in pain and couldn’t breathe.

State and local leaders called on the city for more answers in the death of the 46-year-old Floyd, and several pastors asked the community to remain peaceful in its protest. Gov. Tim Walz vowed to find answers and “seek justice” in the case.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was quick to condemn the officers’ actions on social media and in interviews.

“George Floyd’s life mattered. He was a human being and what all of us saw in that video was wrong in every sense,” Frey said Tuesday in an interview with North News streamed on Facebook. “It was horrid."

“When you hear someone call for help — especially when you’re charged with protecting and serving — you provide that help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense,” the mayor said.