Following the death of George Floyd caused by Minnesota police officers, thousands of protests erupted across the country, resulting in the arrests of more than 10,000 people.
George Floyd Protests Spark Thousands of Arrests
On May 25, George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers who ignored his pleas for help. As Floyd continued to say that he couldn’t breathe, a crowd began to gather at the scene with cameras and cell phones that recorded the incident. After the ambulance arrived and Floyd was pronounced dead, recordings and footage filmed at the scene sparked a national incident on police brutality.
Protesters around the country began gathering in all 50 states to address the issue of police brutality and the wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Although most protests were non-violent, some included fighting and confrontations with police. Some areas experienced looting of businesses, fires, and various forms of violence. Police responded to the scenes with pepper spray, teargas, batons, and rubber bullets. Many cities, including Minneapolis, enacted nightly curfews in an attempt to stop demonstrations and curb unrest. As protests grew, over 10,000 people were arrested in George Floyd protests for both violent and non-violent actions.
Since May, Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers have experienced a surge in cases involving people who were arrested for their actions in protest demonstrations:
In Minneapolis, a local resident, Dan Rojas, was arrested while attempting to clean up a public sidewalk in his neighborhood that was filled with teargas canisters and rubber bullet fragments. Six Minneapolis police officers confronted him, put him in handcuffs, and arrested him. Charges were later dropped for lack of probable cause.
In Atlanta, a peaceful protest led to the arrest of a young woman, Jarah Gibson, filming a video of a bicyclist who appeared to be hit by a police car after protesters were boxed in by police. She was arrested and given a citation for being in the area and refusing to leave when police asked. Gibson was taken to jail, photographed with a mugshot, fingerprinted, and put into the system.
In Los Angeles, a woman was arrested two streets away from her apartment building while trying to return home before a 6 P.M. curfew took effect. She was blocked by police who were aiming teargas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets at people on balconies in the woman’s apartment building. She was handcuffed, put into a police bus for 5 hours, and arrested. She was eventually released with a citation for being out past curfew.
Many non-violent protesters arrested during protests say they fear police retaliation, so they have requested to remain anonymous while citations and charges are pending. These protesters describe police tactics referred to as “kettling”, where protesters are surrounded and blocked from leaving the area by police. Many people were blocked until curfews took effect, then arrests were made for violating curfew laws. Many protesters who were wrongfully arrested are seeking legal help from criminal defense lawyers.
Police Misconduct in Minneapolis
The death of George Floyd and The Black Lives Matter movement has created a firestorm of national and global attention focused on police brutality. Protests against racial injustice and police brutality that started in Minneapolis have now spread across America and countries around the world. George Floyd’s death has caused widespread outrage and a reckoning about systemic racism in today’s society.
Minneapolis has a long history with reports of racial policing and police misconduct. The Minneapolis Chief of Police, a black man, sued his own department and accused leaders of tolerating racism within the department. He vowed to improve race relations with the black community, however, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) is once again under siege after the death of George Floyd on Minneapolis streets. Through the years, the MPD has refused offers for intervention training which may have prevented George Floyd’s death, as well as civilian loss of life in many MPD cases.
Among U.S. cities with a population of more than 100,000 people, Minneapolis is in the top 25 cities with the highest crime rates. In 2016, a study commissioned by the city’s Police Conduct Oversight Commission found that making a misconduct complaint at most Minneapolis Police precincts or using online resources was nearly impossible. Investigations showed unnecessarily complicated processes that blocked or slowed down numerous cases of reporting police misconduct or brutality.
If citizens did succeed in filing complaints about MPD misconduct, little actions were taken by the department. During one period, more than 50 percent of the 439 reviewed complaint cases were dismissed because they were older than 270 days. No officers were disciplined. Between 2006 and 2012, criminal defense lawyers saw a large number of misconduct lawsuits filed for wrongful arrests and claims of police misconduct. During 2006 and 2012, Minneapolis paid out $14 million for alleged police misconduct.