June 6, 2020

Democratic US politicians urge police reform as protesters march for 11th day

Push to reform U.S. police intensifies ahead of Floyd funeral

Prominent Democratic politicians on Friday embraced the cause of U.S. protesters angered by the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody, adopting their slogans and announcing reforms as tensions remained high in major cities.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with U.S. President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches in the nation’s capital, had the slogan “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.

In Minneapolis, where 46-year-old George Floyd died on May 25 after a police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke holds, although the ordinance must be approved by a judge.

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Separate autopsies conducted by the Hennepin County Medical examiner and a team hired by Floyd’s family each found that he died from asphyxiation.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he would bar a state police training agency from teaching a restraint technique, sometimes called a “sleeper hold,” that involves restricting the carotid artery in the neck.

And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing “Say Their Name” reforms, including making police disciplinary records publicly available and banning chokeholds.

“Mr Floyd’s murder was the breaking point,” Cuomo, also a Democrat, said in a statement. “People are saying enough is enough, we must change.”

Amid accusations across the country of police use of excessive force during the 11 days of protests, a federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop deploying tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades. The temporary injunction was in response to a lawsuit filed by protesters.

A spokesman for the Denver Police Department said the force would comply with the order.

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National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a videotaped message, said the NFL had made mistakes in not listening to players and it would now “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”

The NFL, ranked as America’s most popular professional league in polls and television ratings, has been locked in a debate with players over kneeling protests during the national anthem before games, a practice made popular by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is black, in 2016 to protest against racial injustice and police brutality.

Trump, who derided the kneeling players as “sons of bitches” in 2017, criticized their actions again on Twitter earlier on Friday.