The mayor of Minneapolis is speaking out about the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers.
In a Wednesday press conference, Mayor Jacob Frey called for charges against the white officer who put his knee on the neck of Floyd, a black man who was unarmed. He also asserted that Floyd’s race played a part in his death.
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“He’d be alive today if he were white,” Frey said of Floyd, according to CBS News. “I’m not a prosecutor, but let me be clear, the arresting officer killed someone.”
On Tuesday, a video of Floyd being arrested by Minneapolis police officers went viral on social media.
In the video, an officer — later identified as Derek Chauvin — can be seen with his knee firmly placed on the back of Floyd’s neck. Floyd was handcuffed and lying on his stomach next to a Minneapolis patrol car.
Three officers held Floyd down, with Chauvin placing his weight on the man’s neck with his left knee, as seen in the video.
Floyd can be heard in the video groaning in pain while bystanders plead with Chauvin to be more gentle. Throughout the nine-minute clip, he repeatedly asks for help. He tells the officers that he cannot breathe and says that “everything hurts.” The video continued until Floyd was visibly still.
A report from the Minneapolis Fire Department says that paramedics arrived at the scene and were unable to find Floyd’s pulse. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Chauvin and the other three officers involved in the incident have since been fired, but no charges have been filed.
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The video of the incident was picked up by multiple news outlets, being seen millions of times. In the days since the video’s release, thousands of people have staged protests throughout Minneapolis.
In the initial media statement after Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department alleged that he was “under the influence,” and that police were responding to a report of forgery.
The statement states: “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
But many lawmakers in Minnesota and others have questioned the police account, pointing out that no video evidence shows Floyd resisting.
In the press conference, Frey declined to say that Chauvin was racist, but told reporters that the facts had led him “down the path that race was involved.”
An online petition calling for charges against the officers who were present has received more than 1.4 million signatures.
PEOPLE was unable to immediately reach Chauvin or any of the officers involved.
The FBI is investigating Floyd’s death.
Protests Turn Destructive
On Wednesday night, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Minneapolis, gathering near the intersection where Floyd was pinned down by officers. While the majority of the protests were peaceful, some of the demonstrators began looting nearby businesses. Authorities mobilized the national guard to contain the protests.
“We’re here to let them know this can’t be tolerated, there will be severe consequences if they continue to kill us this will not go on another day,” one protestor told local news outlet WCCO-4.
During the night, demonstrators and officers in riot gear faced off multiple times in tense moments. At one point, officers fired tear gas into the crowds. One man was shot to death on Wednesday night, but it’s unclear how he or the shooter were connected to the demonstrations.