News World US Minneapolis City Council vow to disband police department after death of George Floyd
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Minneapolis City Council vow to disband police department after death of George Floyd

US protests
Minneapolis City Council 9th ward member Alondra Cano speaks to community members at ‘The Path Forward’ meeting at Powderhorn Park on Sunday local time. Photo: AAP
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Several Minneapolis City Council members have vowed to disband the city’s police department to bring an end to the current system of policing in the city, including the banning of chokeholds and neck restraints.

Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared at a rally at Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon (local time) and pledged to instead invest in a community-based public safety model.

Council Member Jeremiah Ellison promised the council would “dismantle” the department, The Associated Press reported, after the death of George Floyd while in police custody last month.

“It is your fight that has got us to this point, so not one moment of silence for those who have died,” Councillor Ellison told the crowd while standing on a stage emblazoned with a sign saying “Defund police”.

In a later statement on Twitter, Councillor Ellison said: “We’ll be taking intermediate steps towards ending the MPD through the budget process and other policy and budget decisions over the coming weeks and months.”

Minneapolis became the centre of both violent and peaceful protests following the Memorial Day death on May 25 of Mr Floyd.

Mr Floyd, 46, a black man in handcuffs, died after a white officer pressed his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, ignoring Mr Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe” and holding it there even after Mr Floyd stopped moving.

The incident was captured on video, setting off massive street demonstrations across the US, inspiring anti-racism protests around the globe, as demonstrators in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Paris, Berlin and other cities embraced the Black Lives Matter message.

Three police officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been arrested and charged with aiding and abetting murder.

The fourth former officer, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into the African-American man’s neck, has had his third-degree murder charge upgraded to second-degree murder.

Councillor Ellison urged protesters to continue demonstrating against police brutality as the state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, the ABC reported on Monday.

Community activists have criticised the department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change.

The first concrete changes came on Friday when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

Meanwhile, Demonstrators in Rome held their fists in the air on Sunday and chanted “No justice, no peace!” while in the UK capital people defying official warnings not to gather lay down outside the US embassy.

In Belgium, police fired tear gas and used a water canon to disperse about a hundred protesters in a central part of Brussels with many African shops and restaurants. Some protesters were subsequently arrested.

They were part of a crowd of about 10,000 who had gathered at the Palace of Justice, many wearing face masks and carrying banners with the phrase “Black Lives Matter – Belgium to Minneapolis”, “I can’t breathe” and “Stop killing black people”.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Australians gathered in Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney CBDs to protest against racism and Indigenous deaths in custody.

At least 20,000 people joined the march in central Sydney after the Court of Appeal declared it an authorised public assembly less than 15 minutes before it was due to begin.

And dramatic footage posted on social media showed demonstrators in Bristol in western England cheering as they tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader, and pushed it into a river.

US embassies were the focus of protests elsewhere in Europe, with more than 10,000 gathering in the Danish capital Copenhagen, hundreds in Budapest and thousands in Madrid, where they lined the street guarded by police in riot gear.

Curfews lifted in more US states

Meanwhile, New York City has lifted the curfew spurred by protests against police brutality ahead of schedule after a peaceful night, free of the clashes or ransacking of stores that rocked the city days earlier.

“I want to thank everybody who has expressed their views peacefully,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday (AEST).

“I made the decision to end the curfew. And honestly, I hope it’s the last time we will ever need a curfew in New York City.”

While the curfew was lifted, the mayor said a decision hadn’t been made yet on whether to lift a ban on vehicles in Manhattan south of 96th Street after 8pm.

The 8pm city-wide curfew, New York’s first in decades, had been set to remain in effect through at least Monday (AEST), with officials planning to lift it at the same time the city enters the first phase of re-opening after nearly three months of shutdowns because of the coronavirus.

The mayor said police had arrested just four people and issued 24 court summonses on Saturday.

Local politicians and civil liberties advocates had called for an end to the 8pm curfew, complaining that it causes needless friction when officers try to enforce it.

But Mayor de Blasio had initially insisted the curfew would remain in place throughout the weekend.

The end of the curfew comes as New York City prepares to begin reopening some businesses on Monday including manufacturing and construction companies, wholesalers and retailers.

Retailers won’t be allowed to have customers inside for another couple of weeks but can let people pick up merchandise on the sidewalk or have it delivered.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reiterated his call for people who have attended the protest marches to get tested for the coronavirus.

“Get a test. Get a test,” the governor said on Sunday, adding that the state planned on opening 15 testing sites dedicated just to protesters so they can get results quickly.

The US has 1,938,842 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and the death toll has risen to 110,482.

-with agencies