Protests Turn Subdued After New Charges in Floyd Case

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -
Police line up as protesters attempt to take over the Crescent City Connection bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Wednesday, during a protest over the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Demonstrations in cities across the U.S. to condemn racism and police abuses remained large but turned notably more subdued on the eve of a Thursday memorial service for George Floyd that kicks off a series of events to mourn the man whose death empowered a national movement.

The calmer protests came on the same day that prosecutors charged three more police officers and filed a new, tougher charge against the officer at the center of the case.

The most serious new charge Wednesday was an accusation of second-degree murder against Derek Chauvin, who was caught on video pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck. The three other officers at the scene were charged for the first time with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to four decades in prison.

The move by prosecutors punctuated an unprecedented week in modern American history, in which largely peaceful protests took place in communities of all sizes but were rocked by bouts of violence, including deadly attacks on officers, rampant thefts and arson in some places.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 people have been arrested in connection with unrest, an Associated Press tally shows. More than a dozen deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.

Protests were still big, but largely peaceful in California.

Some demonstrators lay down to represent the amount of time a white police officer pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck while he pleaded for air. But police kept a mainly hands-off policy during the day even after curfews took effect.

The first of three memorial gatherings for the man whose name has been chanted by hundreds of thousands of people was planned Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis at a service where the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader, and family attorney Ben Crump will speak.

Floyd’s body will then travel to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born 46 years ago, for a public viewing and private family service Saturday.

There will be a large service Monday in Houston, where Floyd spent most of his life, and will include addresses from Sharpton, Crump, and the Rev. Remus E. Wright, the family pastor. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, may attend. A private burial will follow.

Crump, the family attorney, called the additional charges against the officers “a bittersweet moment” and “a significant step forward on the road to justice.”

After the new charges were announced, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, said the state and nation need to “seize the moment” and use the wrenching events of the past week to confront the effects of racism, including unequal educational and economic opportunities.

“I think this is probably our last shot, as a state and as a nation, to fix this systemic issue,” he said.

Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, counts that still stand.

The new second-degree murder charge alleges that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death without intent while committing another felony, namely third-degree assault. It carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, compared with a maximum of 25 years for third-degree murder.

The other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — face the same maximum penalties for aiding and abetting. All three men were in custody by Wednesday evening.

The multiple charges against each officer would offer a jury more options to find them guilty.

Also Wednesday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office released the full autopsy report on Floyd, which noted he had previously tested positive for COVID-19, but was apparently asymptomatic. The report was released with the family’s permission after summary findings Monday that said he had a heart attack while being restrained by officers.

President Donald Trump has pushed the nation’s governors to take a hard line against the violence. He again tweeted Wednesday: “LAW & ORDER!”

An overpowering security force — including officers from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons and, according to a senior defense official, at least 2,200 National Guard soldiers — was out in force Wednesday as thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated in the nation’s capital.

Military vehicles were parked on streets near the White House, and an array of agencies kept watch from the air. An FBI plane, an Army surveillance plane and a Park Police helicopter circled overhead.