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Protests Calm Down Before Floyd Memorial Services

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Demonstrations across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd remained large but mostly without the violence of previous nights on the eve of a Thursday memorial service to mourn the man whose death triggered a national outcry.

The calmer protests followed a decision by prosecutors on Wednesday to charge three more police officers and file a new, tougher charge against the officer at the center of the case.

The most serious new charge was an accusation of second-degree murder against Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was caught on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck during an arrest.

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.

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The move punctuated a week of unrest 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 Minneapolis alone, more than 220 buildings were damaged or burned, with property damage topping $55 million, city officials said.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 people have been arrested in connection with the 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.

Floyd’s name has become a rallying cry in other countries, too.

Will this be the end of the violence?

Protesters in front of the U.S. Embassy in Paris carried signs reading “We are all George Floyd” in French. Protesters waved banners bearing his name from Johannesburg to London, Tel Aviv and Sydney.

In the U.S., protests were still big, but largely peaceful, even after curfews took effect.

The first of three memorial gatherings for Floyd was planned for Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis, with the Rev. Al Sharpton and family attorney Ben Crump speaking.

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 on Saturday.

There will be a large service on Monday in Houston, where Floyd spent most of his life. That will include addresses from Sharpton, Crump and the Rev. Remus E. Wright, the family pastor. A private burial will follow.

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

Hundreds of protesters were in New York City’s Washington Square Park when the charges were announced.

“It’s not enough,” protester Jonathan Roldan said, insisting all four officers should have been charged from the start. “Right now, we’re still marching because it’s not enough that they got arrested. There needs to be systematic change.”

The mood in New York turned somber later in the day after a police officer on an anti-looting patrol was ambushed by a man who walked up behind him and stabbed him in the neck. Two other officers suffered gunshot wounds to their hands in the struggle, and the attacker was in critical condition after being shot by police.

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 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 that he had previously tested positive for COVID-19 but was apparently asymptomatic. The report was released with the family’s permission. A summary had said Floyd had a heart attack while being restrained.

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

A huge 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 on the scene on Wednesday during demonstrations in the nation’s capital.

Military vehicles were parked on streets near the White House. An FBI plane, an Army surveillance plane and a Park Police helicopter circled overhead.

“We are not going anywhere!” protesters chanted. There were no signs of confrontations.

In New York City, where high-end stores had been looted, some retailers fortified their property. Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows were boarded up, then covered in chain-link fencing and razor wire as a line of men with dogs stood guard out front.


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