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George Floyd death: Ex-officer charged with murder in Minneapolis

A former Minneapolis police officer has been arrested and charged with murder following the death of an unarmed black man in custody.

Derek Chauvin, who is white, was shown in footage kneeling on 46-year-old George Floyd's neck on Monday. He and three other officers have been sacked.

Days of looting and arson in the Minnesota city have boiled over into nationwide protests.

The case has reignited US anger over police killings of black Americans.

What did the prosecutor say?

Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman said Mr Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

He said he "anticipates charges" for the three other officers but would not offer more details.

Mr Freeman said his office "charged this case as quickly as evidence has been presented to us".

"This is by far the fastest that we've ever charged a police officer," he noted.

According to the criminal complaint, Mr Chauvin acted with "a depraved mind, without regard for human life". 

What's the latest on the protests?

On Friday evening, the White House was placed on lockdown after a protest was held outside. "I can't breathe," demonstrators could be heard chanting, invoking the last words of Mr Floyd and Eric Garner, a black man who died after being held in a police chokehold in New York in 2014.

The lockdown ended at about 20:30 EDT (00:30 GMT Saturday), with the US Secret Service reopening the building's entrances and exits to staff.

Meanwhile, curfews have been ordered for the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, from 20:00 to 06:00 on both Friday and Saturday night.

On Thursday, during the third night of protests over Mr Floyd's death, a police station was set alight. A number of buildings have been burned, looted and vandalised in recent days, prompting the activation of the state's National Guard troops.

In Atlanta on Friday, a police vehicle was set alight as protesters gathered near the offices of news broadcaster CNN.

A police car burns as protesters gather near the CNN offices in Atlanta, Georgia

There have also been demonstrations elsewhere, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Louisville, Phoenix, Columbus and Memphis.

Frustration was already simmering over the recent deaths of two other black Americans, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor.

How did George Floyd die?

The full report by the county medical examiner has not been released, but the complaint states that the post-mortem examination did not find evidence of "traumatic asphyxia or strangulation".

The medical examiner noted Mr Floyd had underlying heart conditions and the combination of these, "potential intoxicants in his system" and being restrained by the officers "likely contributed to his death".

The report says Mr Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds - almost three minutes of which was after Mr Floyd became non-responsive.

Nearly two minutes before he removed his knee the other officers checked Mr Floyd's right wrist for a pulse and were unable to find one. He was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in an ambulance and pronounced dead around an hour later.

Protesters are seen outside of a liquor store on fire
Protesters gather to watch a liquor store burning

The Minnesota police handbook states that officers trained on how to compress a detainee's neck without applying direct pressure to the airway can use a knee under its use-of-force policy. This is regarded as a non-deadly-force option.

What has Trump said?

At the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump called the incident "a terrible, terrible thing" and said he had spoken with Mr Floyd's family, whom he described as "terrific people".

He said he had asked the justice department to expedite an investigation it announced on Friday into whether any civil rights laws were violated in Mr Floyd's death.

Protesters use a barricade to try and break the windows of the 3rd Police Precinct

The president also said "looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters".

Earlier, he described the rioters as "thugs" who were dishonouring Mr Floyd's memory.

Social media network Twitter accused Mr Trump of glorifying violence in a post that said: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

What's the reaction?

Mr Floyd's family and their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said that the arrest was "welcome but overdue".

The family said they wanted a more serious, first-degree murder charge as well as the arrest of the other officers involved.

The statement called for the city to change its policing, saying: "Today, George Floyd's family is having to explain to his children why their father was executed by police on video."

Former US President Barack Obama also weighed in, saying: "This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America."

His statement added: "If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better."

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the arrest was "a good first step toward justice".

What happened in the arrest?

Officers suspected Mr Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 (£16) note and were attempting to put him in a police vehicle when he dropped to the ground, telling them he was claustrophobic.

According to police, he physically resisted officers and was handcuffed.

Video of the incident does not show how the confrontation started, but a white officer can be seen with his knee on Mr Floyd's neck, pinning him down.

Mr Floyd can be heard saying "please, I can't breathe" and "don't kill me".

A former local nightclub owner has said Mr Chauvin and Mr Floyd both worked as bouncers at her venue in south Minneapolis up until last year, though it is unclear if they knew one another.

Viewpoint: Frightening words

By Barrett Holmes Pitner

In saying "when the looting starts, the shooting starts", President Donald Trump echoed a December 1967 quote from Miami Police Chief Walter Headley.

It was used as a threat towards African Americans in Miami and as part of his brutal "get tough policy" where he advocated the use of guns and dogs to stop civil rights protests.

In August of 1968, as Richard Nixon addressed the Republican National Convention in Miami, the police there killed three protesters, injured 18, and arrested over 200 people.  Similar violent police attacks defined America during the 1960s, as African Americans fought for civil rights and voting rights. It is not a widely known phrase, but Headley's sentiments have long been part of the American status quo - US law enforcement and political figures have made many statements invoking Headley and they still do today. It's frightening to now hear Headley's words emanate from the highest reaches of our government.

Barrett is a writer and journalist based in Washington, DC

Read more from Barrett

Can you contract coronavirus from a surface or object? 

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, fear of contracting the virus from surfaces and objects has fueled a mad dash for disinfectant wipes and frantic scrubbing of everyday items like groceries and takeout containers. 

Like the virus itself, our knowledge of how COVID-19 spreads is still new. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says contaminated surfaces are not the main way the virus is transmitted, the agency hasn’t ruled surfaces out as a possible mode of infection. But disinfecting those groceries may not be the best way to protect yourself from the virus.

“If you want a reliable way to prevent yourself from getting the coronavirus, worry less about the surfaces you touch, and worry more about how frequently you wash your hands,” says Dr. Dara Kass, a Yahoo News Medical Contributor and associate professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “Washing your hands, even if you touch a contaminated surface, is the best way to protect yourself from getting the coronavirus. It’s really that simple. And it’s what we’ve been saying all along.  

“I think you do what you feel most comfortable with,” Kass adds of disinfecting surfaces. “It is really unlikely that you’re going to get coronavirus from a surface in the mail, or your packages, or your groceries. But there’s really no harm in wiping things down.” 

Confusion over how the virus is transmitted was reignited last week when the CDC edited the “How COVID-19 Spreads” page on their COVID-19 website to mention contaminated surfaces and objects under a new heading entitled, “The virus does not spread easily in other ways.” After some news organizations suggested that the edit indicated the organization had downgraded its warnings on the virus spreading on surfaces, CDC edited the page again and issued a statement on its website on May 22.

“This change was intended to make it easier to read, and was not a result of any new science. After media reports appeared that suggested a change in CDC’s view on transmissibility, it became clear that these edits were confusing. Therefore, we have once again edited the page to provide clarity,” CDC said. 

The virus is spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs, or while talking. One can become infected through close contact if these droplets land on the nose, mouth or eyes, or by inhaling them, which is why measures like wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet away from others have been recommended.     

In theory, it is possible that these droplets could also spread the virus if they land on a surface and a person touches that surface before touching their face. But as CDC clarified in its May 22 statement, this is not the primary mode of infection.  

“The primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact from person to person,” CDC said. “Based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

A cleaner disinfects a New York City subway train, May 4. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

An often-cited study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on metal and plastic for two to three days, with the detectable amount of the virus decreasing exponentially over time. Still, one of the scientists involved in the study told CNN that he doesn’t bother wiping down surfaces like groceries or takeout, and instead prioritizes washing his hands after handling such items. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also advised Americans that there’s little to fear from their food.     

“We want to reassure consumers that there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” the FDA says. “This particular coronavirus causes respiratory illness and is spread from person to person, unlike food-borne gastrointestinal, or GI viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food.” 

But as the CDC also notes, we are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.  

“If we tell people that the risk doesn’t exist here without the caveat that ‘but it could,’ we have a problem going back,” Kass says of evolving COVID-19 guidance. “People are very upset when we’re wrong. We originally said, ‘We’re not really sure if you should wear masks,’ and then we started to say, ‘It’s probably a good idea,’ and now we’re saying, ‘Mask wearing should basically be mandatory.’”     

“The confusion is people asking for absolutes,” Kass explains. “People are trying to get guarantees. We don’t have a lot of guarantees right now. It’s still a very new virus. We’re still figuring out what’s going on. We’re still trying to understand where the risks are and where they aren’t.”

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Click here for the latest coronavirus news and updates. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please refer to the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

Read more:

Twitter flags Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests for 'glorifying violence'

For the second time, Twitter flagged a message from President Trump with a warning, saying that his post-midnight tweet calling for the military to shoot protesters in Minneapolis was “glorifying violence.”

As protests over the death of George Floyd escalated to the burning of a police station late Thursday, Trump took to Twitter after midnight to write, “I can’t stand back watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard get the job done right.”

Trump then followed with a tweet saying, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Twitter added a notice to the tweet that users had to click through in order to read it, writing, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

President Trump holds up a copy of the New York Post on Thursday before signing an executive order aimed at curbing protections for social media companies. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The social media platform issued a statement saying, “We have placed a public interest notice on this Tweet from @realdonaldtrump. This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today. We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”

On Friday morning, the official White House account posted a tweet with the same language that had been flagged. Twitter later added the same warning it had placed on the Trump tweet.

The quote referencing looting and shooting was first used by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967, referring to black protesters who were upset with the city’s “stop and frisk” policies, which included dangling a black teenager over a bridge. The quote and policies are viewed as having sparked race riots in the city the following year.

“I will not lift the President’s tweet,” said presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a tweet Friday morning. “I will not give him that amplification. But he is calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many. I’m furious, and you should be too.”

The protests over the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody on Monday, escalated overnight and included the burning of a police precinct station that had been evacuated by the police. The four officers involved with the death were fired, but on Thursday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he would not rush in pressing charges against them, stating that “there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.”

Freeman’s office later issued a clarification to that comment, saying it is being misinterpreted.

“To clarify, County Attorney Freeman was saying that it is critical to review all the evidence because at the time of trial, invariably, all that information will be used,” the attorney’s office said. “Evidence not favorable to our case needs to be carefully examined to understand the full picture of what actually happened.”

Trump has been in a back-and-forth with Twitter over the course of the week after the company added fact-check language to two of the president’s posts that falsely claimed mail-in ballots contribute to widespread voter fraud. “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read a message below the tweets, linking to a fact-check page populated by links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion.

On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order purporting to strip legal protections from Twitter and other social media companies, although experts believe it would require an act of Congress to actually have a real effect.

This week Twitter was asked to remove posts in which the president demanded an investigation of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough in the death of a young woman who died in his office in 2001. Lori Klausutis’s death was ruled an accident, and there is no evidence implicating Scarborough, who was a Florida congressman at the time. Her husband, Timothy Klausutis, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey protesting Trump’s tweets, saying the president had “perverted” the memory of his late wife for political gain.

Twitter said it was “deeply sorry” but that it would not remove the posts, and it has not posted a fact check or disclaimer in reply.

_____

Click here for the latest coronavirus news and updates. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please refer to the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

Read more:

 

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