Bail was set at $1 million on Monday for the Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd as mourners paid their respects in his hometown of Houston to the African-American man whose death has sparked massive protests for racial justice across the United States and beyond.
In Washington, Democratic lawmakers knelt in silent tribute to Floyd before unveiling a package of police reforms in response to the killing of black Americans by law enforcement.
Officer charged with Floyd murder appears in court
The move comes a day after the Minneapolis city council voted to dismantle and rebuild the police department in the Minnesota city where the 46-year-old Floyd died during a May 25 arrest.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer who was filmed pressing his knee on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes until he expired, made his first court appearance on Monday.
Chauvin, 44, appeared by video from a state prison to face charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Derek Chauvin's bail set at $1.25 Million in George Floyd death.
The former Minneapolis police officer is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. #GeorgeFloyd https://t.co/IcPgaPxRWB
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) June 8, 2020
The 19-year veteran of the police force could face decades in prison if convicted.
In a procedural hearing that did not require Chauvin to submit a plea, the Hennepin County District Court judge set his bail at $1 million with conditions, and $1.25 million without conditions.
Meeting the conditions would require him to surrender his firearms, not work in law enforcement or security in any capacity, and have no contact with the family of Floyd.
Three other Minneapolis police officers appeared in court last week to face a charge of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder for their roles in his arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
All four officers have been fired.
Memorial held in honour of George Floyd
In Houston, the Texas city where Floyd grew up, hundreds of mourners waited patiently in stifling heat outside the Fountain of Praise Church to pay their last respects.
A stream of mourners passed in front of Floyd’s casket, some making the sign of the cross, some taking a knee and others bowing their heads in silent prayer.
All were required to wear masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s bringing us together as a country,” said Kevin Sherrod, 41, who was accompanied by his wife and two sons aged eight and nine.
“Being here with my boys means a lot,” Sherrod added. “It is a time in history and they will remember they were part of it.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was flying to Houston on Monday to meet privately with members of Floyd’s family.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden showed compassion that “meant the world” to George Floyd’s family on Monday, according to a lawyer for the family.
Biden met with Floyd’s relatives in Houston for more than an hour, said lawyer Benjamin Crump, who posted a picture of himself on Twitter after the meeting with Biden, Floyd’s uncle Roger, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton and Representative Cedric Richmond.
Floyd is to be buried in Houston on Tuesday next to his mother.
Violent protests over Floyd’s murder
Floyd’s death, the latest of a black man at the hands of police, has unleashed protests for racial justice and against police brutality in cities across the US and around the world.
The United States has been forced to send in the National Guard into cities all across the country because of prolonged riots over the murder of a black man by police. Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major US cities Sunday after five consecutive nights of unrest over the George Floyd murder and associated police brutality boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country.
President Donald Trump blamed anarchists and far-left activists for the violence, threatening to officially designate the ANTIFA movement as terrorists, while local leaders appealed to citizens to give constructive outlet to their rage without destroying their communities.
The Department of Defense said that around 5,000 National Guard troops had been mobilized in 15 states as well as the capital Washington with another 2,000 on standby.
The widespread resort to uniformed National Guards units is rare, and it evoked disturbing memories of the rioting in US cities in 1967 and 1968 in a turbulent time of protest over racial and economic disparities.
Minneapolis to rebuild police department
The Minneapolis city council pledged on Sunday to dismantle and rebuild the police department.
“We committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe,” council president Lisa Bender said.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that while he supported “structural reform to revise this structurally racist system” he was not for abolishing the department.
Other US cities have already begun to embrace reforms — starting with bans on the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
US lawmakers recognise need for change
In Washington, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and two dozen other lawmakers knelt in silence at the US Capitol for the eight minutes and 46 seconds that Chauvin- the officer charged for Floyd’s murder- spent with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Democrats then unveiled a wide-ranging police reform bill, one of the chief demands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets for the past two weeks in the most sweeping US protests for racial justice since the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The bill aims to create “meaningful, structural change that safeguards every Americans’ right to safety and equal justice,” the Democrats said.
The Justice and Policing Act, introduced in both chambers of Congress, would make it easier to prosecute officers for abuse and rethink how they are recruited and trained.
“Black lives matter. The protests we’ve seen in recent days are an expression of rage and one of despair,” House Democrat Steny Hoyer said. “Today Democrats in the House and Senate are saying: ‘We see you, we hear you, we are acting.'”
Democratic leaders did not include language calling to “defund the police” — increasingly a rallying cry for protesters — and White House hopeful Biden issued a statement flatly rejecting the suggestion.
Even so it is unclear what support the proposed reforms might find in the Republican-controlled Senate — or whether Trump would sign such legislation into law.
Trump takes a hard line against protests
Trump has adopted a tough approach to putting down the protests and has proposed no specific policy changes in response to the widespread outrage over Floyd’s death.
“LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE. The Radical Left Democrats have gone Crazy!” he tweeted on Monday ahead of a scheduled roundtable with law enforcement at the White House on Monday.
A CNN poll published on Monday of registered voters had Biden with a 14-point lead over Trump — his biggest margin yet in the White House race.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk