WASHINGTON - Demonstrations and protests are popping up across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and D.C. police officials are expecting them as well.
“People are going to be obviously very upset by this – this is something that people are going to be very passionate about as they should be,” D.C. Police Chief Pete Newsham told FOX 5 on Friday morning.
A video taken by a bystander showed one of the officers pinning Floyd to the ground and pressing his knee into his neck as Floyd repeats that he cannot breathe. Floyd eventually becomes unresponsive, but the officer continues to hold his knee to the man’s neck until an ambulance arrives.
Floyd died in a local hospital Monday night.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser described the incident as heartbreaking for anyone who saw the video.
“It’s hearbreaking to me, it’s heartbreaking to people who believe in good policing, and it’s heartbreaking to African-Americans all over this country – we saw a man begging for his life, and we saw four officers standing around watching it happen. What we want to make clear to our community and what the chief makes clear every day is that our officers have a duty to engage with our residents respectfully, to do their jobs, to follow their training, and to follow the chief’s guidance. And that’s what we wake up every morning working very hard to do. And that’s what we expect from our community too,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
Newsham described the video as disturbing, and said he can’t see any way to interpret the police behavior in it as anything other than criminal.
“A lot of times you see these videos, and you feel like you need more information to make a determination but in this particular case, there’s absolutely no explanation that I can see for the behavior of the officer there, other than a complete disregard for human life,” the chief said.
Although the District saw only a few small protests pop up overnight, the chief expects there will be more to come in a city that sees demonstrations large and small on a daily basis.
“We anticipate that there will be protests here in the District and if there are, they’re going to be treated like any other protest. We’re going to give them their right to peaceably protest in the District of Columbia,” he said.
The chief wanted residents to know that police will take people into custody if they destroy property or behave in a harmful manner, but the department does everything it can to prevent incidents similar to the one seen in Minneapolis.
“If we take somebody into custody, regardless of who they are, it will be done safely and it will be done respectfully,” he said.
“One of our main goals here at MPD is to treat everybody with respect,” he said.
Bowser says the chief has worked on training to give the officers skills to de-escalate potentially explosive situations.
But she stressed that police rely on the community’s cooperation to make sure order and safety are maintained.
“What I want to make perfectly clear is that the community needs good police, and good police need community members that are working hard for them,” the mayor said.