MINNEAPOLIS -- The former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck leading up to his death Monday was charged with third-degree murder Friday.
Protesters say the numbers still don’t add up.
“One down,” said the Rev. Brian Herron, at a spontaneous rally near the spot Floyd was killed.
“Three to go,” the crowd assembled there responded.
In what Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman described as “extraordinarily fast” legal action in charging Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, people gathered but made it clear they weren’t appeased or impressed with the speed.
“They did not move fast,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Hussein spoke at the rally on the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue Friday afternoon.
“(Freeman) has the ability to put a hold charge on them,” Hussein said. “The system works when they want it to work.”
Friday's protests took place as Minneapolis and St. Paul came to grips with an extraordinary night of violence and destruction, including fires that destroyed local businesses and the Third Precinct police station in Minneapolis.
Both cities ordered curfews starting at 8 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Saturday, then restarting at 8 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday.
“Free speech does not extend to breaking windows,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told reporters.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said he asked for 400 members of the State Patrol and National Guard to help patrol St. Paul Friday night. City police said more than 170 business had been damaged or looted overnight but with no serious injuries. Officers made seven arrests as they responded to nearly 1,200 911 calls, including 89 “shots fired” calls.
Despite the citywide 8 p.m. curfew, demonstrators stayed out in force in Minneapolis Friday night.
At the scene where Floyd was killed, hundreds continued to attend the rally long after the curfew.
Activist John Thompson spoke to the crowd and announced his candidacy as the DFL-endorsed candidate for District 67A.
He said the blame for Thursday’s violence falls to the system that allowed Floyd and other unarmed black men to die at the hands of police.
“The police department, the mayor’s office and the state are just as responsible for burning those buildings down as much as the people running into the buildings and getting stuff out of them.”
The rally was a stark contrast to evening events along East Lake Street where hazy smoke hung in the air from fires the day before.
Despite a relatively quiet day following a night of fires and looting Thursday, demonstrators and police again clashed at East Lake Street near the remains of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct building.
Shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew, police and National Guard members who had stood, holding back demonstrators all day, fell back to the west, donned gas masks and launched tear gas toward demonstrators. Demonstrators along the front lines moved toward police while others scattered.
Jayne Mikulay, who lives a few blocks from the site of the clash said she has attended demonstrations every night there this week but sat out Friday.
She brought her 12-year-old, mixed-race son to the demonstration Tuesday, she said.
“This needs to happen,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s very frightening.
Fire officials said their squads responded to nearly 300 calls in the city, including 50 structural fires on Thursday night and Friday.
During the curfew hours, people are prohibited from streets or public spaces. Police and other emergency responders are exempt. Those caught violating the orders face a misdemeanor penalty and a $1,000 fine.
'Beyond premeditated murder'
Meanwhile, anticipation of the cases against the remaining three police officers continues to build.
Freeman said he expects charges to be filed against the officers, who either helped hold Floyd down or did nothing as he begged for help. Video shows Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he told officers he couldn’t breathe.
The charges are also a source of frustration. Community leaders said Chauvin should be facing harsher charges.
“They were not startled,” Hussein said. “Nine minutes of choking someone to death … it’s beyond premeditated murder.”
Leaders said marches, rallies and protests will continue until the other officers are charged. Only then can the community begin to rebuild, said Brother Uthman, assistant Imam at Masjid Ni'mat ul-Islaam.
“After that happens, hopefully we can rebuild and change the way we do policing in our community,” he said.
On a normal Friday, Uthman would be preparing and delivering a sermon at Masjid Ni'mat ul-Islaam, which is in the lower level of Cup Foods, the business near where officers confronted Floyd. Chauvin held him down on the street next to the store.
Flowers and a temporary memorial were erected at the site where Floyd died.
Keeping the peace
Friday, Uthman had a larger audience for his sermon. The afternoon rally remained peaceful, as did protesters facing off with police near the Third Precinct police station on Lake Street that protesters burned Thursday night.
Leaders urged people to keep the rallies peaceful.
“There are people trying to sabotage this movement,” Uthman said.
“This ain’t no 'hood, this is our community,” said Rev. Brian Herron.
Abdi and Laila Dafar brought their two children, Hanna, 4, and Zakaria, 11, to the afternoon rally at Chicago Avenue.
“I wanted them to see up close and understand the gravity of what happened,” Abdi Dafar said.
He said he hopes things don’t return to normal, in part because he’s concerned for his son’s safety as he gets older.
Jayce Green, 6, paused before a mural of Floyd’s likeness painted on the side of a building on 38th Street.
“Mom, why did police kill this person,” he asked. “He didn’t even kill anyone or rob a bank.”
His mother, Leora Green, said she wasn’t sure how to answer the question.
“I don’t know if I have the words to explain,” she said.
Although crowds remained peaceful through the early evening, both St. Paul and Minneapolis are under an 8 p.m. curfew and people didn’t seem eager to leave the streets.
On Thursday, protests turned violent with looting and fires.
St. Paul’s battered Midway neighborhood rallied to tend to storefronts that were ransacked on Thursday. Groups of people toting brooms and dustpans walked up and down University Avenue where several businesses were burned.
Forum News Service reporter Matthew Guerry and Minnesota Public Radio contributed to this report.