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Mourners Set to Honor George Floyd; US Protesters Demand Reforms

A man holds a candle as he reacts at the scene of the death, in Minneapolis police custody, of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 3, 2020.

Mourners are set to gather Thursday in the U.S. city of Minneapolis for the first of three memorials for George Floyd, the man whose death in police custody has led to more than a week of nationwide protests demanding justice and systemic reforms.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton is leading Thursday’s private service for family and friends.

“We remember the long list of those that were killed unjustifiably by law enforcement and those that were killed unjustifiably because of double standards, bigotry and racism,” Sharpton said in a social media post hours before the service. “We think of their loved ones, we think of what they could have been. We think of the contributions that they could have made, and then we get up and do something about achieving justice and fairness.”

A public viewing and private service is then scheduled Saturday in North Carolina, the state where Floyd was born, followed by a large service Monday in Houston where he spent most of his life.

Protesters welcomed the move by prosecutors in the state of Minnesota to charge three additional officers in connection with Floyd’s death, and demonstrations Wednesday night in numerous cities were once again largely peaceful.

Washington DC

In Washington, several thousand people protested outside the White House and the Capitol, and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue as National Guard troops, police and personnel from several federal agencies stood guard.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser relaxed the city’s curfew, starting it at 11 p.m. rather than 7 p.m., after several calmer nights.

Detroit’s police chief said officers there would not impede anyone peacefully marching after the nighttime curfew there went into effect, while the Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan canceled her curfew order that was supposed to last through Saturday.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said they planned to end their curfews Thursday.

Garcetti responded to protester demands to cut his police department’s budget, announcing Wednesday he would redirect $150 million from that department and $100 million from others to projects focusing on health and education for the black community.

He also announced planned police reforms, including requiring officers to intervene if they see another officer inappropriately using force, boosting mental health intervention training, having all officers complete training in de-escalation and crowd control, and strengthening relationships between the police and the community.

4 Police officers charged

The nationwide protests began in Minneapolis, where Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died May 25 after a white police officer held him face down on the street and pressed a knee against his neck for several minutes.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday second-degree murder charges against Derek Chauvin, the officer who held Floyd. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after his arrest last week.

Ellison also announced charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder against the other three officers at the scene: J.A. Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. All four officers are in custody and have been fired from the police department.

“I strongly believe that these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state,” Ellison said. “We’re working together on this case with only one goal: justice for George Floyd.”

A Floyd family attorney said the additional charges are “a bittersweet moment.”

Congressional efforts

Congressman Justin Amash and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley announced Wednesday they are co-leading a bill to end qualified immunity, a move that would make it easier for victims of civil rights abuses to sue officers in civil court.

“Qualified immunity shields police from accountability, impedes true justice, and undermines the constitutional rights of every person in this country,” Pressley said.

New Orleans clash

In one of the few reports of clashes Wednesday night, police in New Orleans used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters. Police officials said the demonstrators defied orders not to cross a bridge.

In New York, police dressed in riot gear confronted a group of protesters who were peacefully demonstrating but after the city’s curfew had gone into effect.

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