As US protests continue against police murder, ROMEA recalls 2016 case of Romani man who died in police custody under circumstances like George Floyd
International media are reporting that more than 1 400 people have been arrested since Thursday and dozens more have suffered injuries, including fatal shootings, during the ongoing demonstrations that have broken out across the United States in response to the murder of an African-American man, George Floyd, during his arrest a week ago in Minneapolis. On Saturday the cities of Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle joined more than 10 other metropolitan areas where curfews have been imposed out of concerns over unrest.
In Minneapolis the curfew had been in place on the previous night as well, but protesters violated it, as they did during Saturday night into the early morning hours of Sunday. Police used tear gas against them, according to the Associated Press.
2016 case in the Czech Republic was similar
In the context of the George Floyd case, the NGO ROMEA has recalled the similar circumstances of the death of the Romani man Miroslav Demeter in Žatec, Czech Republic four years ago. The 27-year-old died on 18 October 2016 in the Panamera Pizzeria after a conflict with customers led to an intervention by local police officers.
Just as in the case of Floyd, there is a video recording of several people, including a local patrol officer, kneeling on Demeter. One of the customers punches Demeter as he lies on the floor immobilized.
In that footage, the young Romani man first cries out and then is silent and stops moving. EMTs called to the scene did not manage to resuscitate him.
In February 2017, police closed their investigation of the case with the assertion that drug use was the cause of Demeter's death, not the actions of anybody else. The District Prosecutor in Louny gave its blessings to the police approach to the case.
The family of the young Romani man did not accept the police conclusion, based on their own examination of the video footage and the testimonies of eyewitnesses, and filed a complaint with the Regional Prosecutor. However, that body agreed with the conclusion of the supervising prosecutor and the approach of the police, which means nobody has ever been punished for the death of this Romani man in police custody.
Thousands in the streets of the USA
In Los Angeles, demonstrators chanted the slogan "Black Lives Matter" on Saturday, the name of the movement that has been drawing attention to cases of police brutality against black people there. Police used truncheons and rubber bullets during crowd control.
During a disruptive night on Friday into the early morning hours of Saturday, when somebody took advantage of the protests to break storefront windows, loot shops and set fires, police officers in Los Angeles arrested 533 people, most of whom were later released. Injuries were suffered by 12 officers and an unspecified number of demonstrators there.
Another 200 people were arrested Friday night in New York. "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" were also heard on Saturday in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Demonstrators are reminding the public of the circumstances of Floyd's death, which were that a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Those demonstrators returned to the White House even after US President Donald Trump threatened to send "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons" against them.
In Tallahassee, Florida, somebody drove a van into a crowd of demonstrators but did not cause anybody serious injuries. In Miami, an originally peaceful protest on Saturday grew into rioting and violence during which some demonstrators set police vehicles on fire.
The Associated Press reported that eyewitnesses say police in Miami responded with tear gas. The local authorities then announced a curfew beginning at 10 PM and closed an important highway on the East Coast of the USA, Interstate 95, which demonstrators had already blocked.
In Seattle, people marching through the city center closed Interstate 5, where police intervened against the demonstrators on Saturday afternoon using pepper spray and stun grenades. In Philadelphia, an originally peaceful demonstration on Saturday exploded in violence that injured at least 13 police officers.
The Governor of the state of Minnesota, Tim Walz, fully mobilized the National Guard because of the continuing unrest and said he was considering an offer from the Defense Department to send military police to the scene. Later the governors of Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas also activated their National Guards.
Curfew in 25 cities in 16 US states
Because of the ongoing unrest, a nighttime curfew was announced in 25 cities in 16 American states, according to CNN. During protests in Indianapolis, three people were shot and one person has died, according to the local police chief.
Police are investigating the case and urging the public to avoid the area where the protests are underway, the chief said; it is unclear whether the shooting was associated with the protests or not. According to the Twitter account of the local police force, the shooting did not involve law officers.
Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City, has condemned an incident during which officers drove two NYPD vehicles into a crowd. The media are also noticing attacks by both demonstrators and police on journalists covering the unrest.
Demonstrations about Floyd's death in Canada and Europe
The death of Floyd has sparked a wave of protests not just in the USA, but also in Britain, Canada, Germany and Italy. The demonstrations have been scheduled for weeks to come, the Variety news server reported.
In Berlin several thousand people assembled on Saturday in front of the American Embassy near Brandenburg Gate and protested against the circumstances of Floyd's death. The crowd carried banners reading "Black Lives Matter", "Justice for George Floyd" and "I Can't Breathe".
Hundreds of people held a similar demonstration in the London neighborhood of Peckham. The crowd stopped all traffic on the local main road at one point.
Another such demonstration was convened in the center of London yesterday. This coming Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday the protests will be held in Hyde Park, in front of Parliament, and in front of the US Embassy in London.
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