Protests over police killings still simmer in US

A demonstration in Miami, Florida, one of many which have broken out. Picture: Getty Images
A demonstration in Miami, Florida, one of many which have broken out. Picture: Getty Images
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Protests in the United States about police killings of unarmed black men are continuing, with calls for a nationwide dialogue and a “die in” in one city.

The deaths of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, 43, in New York City have led to “two of the worst weeks” in modern American history, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said.

Mr Nutter, who is black, called for a review of police training.

In both cases, grand juries ­decided not to charge the white police officers involved, leading to days of protests in major ­cities.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, whose wife is black, said there had to be “an ­honest ­conversation” about the ­history of racism in the US to help bring together police and the ­community. He has also spoken openly about his concerns for his teenage son. But Mr de Blasio declined to answer specifically when pressed about whether he ­respected the grand jury’s ­decision last week.

Mr Garner, who was held in a chokehold that is not a move authorised by New York police, repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe” while he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The ­arrest was captured on video.

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His widow said he may have had a history of encounters with police but never resisted arrest.

New York City’s police commissioner, William Bratton, said an internal investigation into Mr Garner’s death could take ­“upwards of three to four months”. He said interviews of officers had already started.

Meanwhile, protests continued in New York and in Philadelphia, about 200 people staged a silent “die in”, lying in the street for four minutes and 30 seconds to symbolise the four hours and 30 minutes that the body of Mr Brown lay on the street after he was shot.

Activist the Rev Al Sharpton announced plans for a march in Washington DC on Saturday to protest at the killings.

In Berkeley, California, some demonstrators smashed ­windows and walked on to a road, blocking traffic.

The protest began peacefully on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, but ­eventually grew rowdy and spilled into nearby Oakland.

The California Highway ­Patrol said officers fired tear gas after protesters targeted them with rocks and bottles and tried to set a patrol vehicle on fire. Police also said explosives were thrown and two officers ­suffered minor injuries.

Television pictures showed protesters smashing door ­windows, breaking into buildings and setting piles of rubbish ablaze. Police made five arrests and said that there had been “significant damage”, with several stores looted.

Politicians on both sides have been calling for calm. Ohio’s Republican ­governor, John Kasich, said: “In our country today, there’s too much division, too much polarisation – black, white; rich, poor; Democrat, Republican. America does best when we’re united.”

William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured ­People, said police should be wearing body cameras, and added: “We have to change the model of policing.”

Actor Jamie Foxx added his voice when asked about the issue at the New York premiere of the remake of Annie.

He said: “We’ll probably have to have a few uncomfortable conversations to sort of get things right, so everybody can walk and enjoy America like it’s supposed to be enjoyed.”

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