Videos pile pressure on US police over racism, killings

Demonstrators gather in Chicago to protest the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, after Chicago officials released body-cam footage of his death. PHOTO: NYTIMES

MINNEAPOLIS (AFP) - More shocking bodycam footage, more fatal shootings by officers, and a murder trial nearing its conclusion - public trust in the US police has seldom been more strained.

Video evidence showing apparent wrongful use of deadly force has been piling up, fuelling a fierce debate on policing across the United States.

"I am a Black man, and I know from experience that the police just aren't professional and the leadership they get isn't right," said Darnell Squire, 46, who sells T-shirts and baseball caps from a street stall in a Minneapolis suburb.

"They aren't around to protect the community, or to make people feel safe, whatever they say - that has been clear since I was a child.

"I don't trust promises from the government about things changing, and I don't trust the system or the courts. For me, the problem starts at the top."

In a court in Minneapolis, former officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for murder over the killing of George Floyd, with closing arguments next week before the jury delivers its verdict.

As the trial examined gruelling video of Floyd dying while Chauvin knelt on his neck, outside the courtroom, fresh examples of police killings have stoked anger and protests.

An officer who stopped young Black man Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb last Sunday shot him dead in his car after mistaking her Taser for a gun - all caught on bodycam.

In another case, Chicago police on Thursday released graphic footage of an officer shooting dead 13-year-old Adam Toledo in a dark alley last month, apparently suspecting he had just dropped a gun.

'This is a long fight'

"I will feel the same even if Chauvin is convicted - this is a long fight," said Selena McKnight 46, a local activist in Minneapolis who regularly attends protests against police misconduct.

"Just look at the videos that come out every day. We will keep fighting. The trial is just one case, and this battle is not over until justice is always served."

The images of Floyd, Wright, Toledo and others dying at the hands of police have been contrasted to officers dealing with aggressive white men.

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On Wednesday, in a town outside Minneapolis, an officer was assaulted with a hammer and dragged at high-speed by a vehicle driven by a white, 61-year-old man.

The suspect, who is accused of attacking shop staff who asked him to wear a Covid-19 mask, rammed a police car and drove off with the officer hanging onto his car.

No shots were fired, and the man was later arrested.

"Was that man shot? No, of course not. That tells you all you need to know about police prejudice," said McKnight.

"We might think that all this video footage can make a difference, but it just shows what we all know has been going on for a long time."

Ahead of the Chauvin trial verdict, the United States is braced for potentially violent protests if he is acquitted of murder.

Downtown Minneapolis has been largely boarded up and deserted during the trial, with armed National Guard troops patrolling in armoured vehicles.

"I fear the police, not Covid-19," said resident Tesfaye Habte, who was born in Ethiopia.

"If I am driving and I see them, I worry they will shoot me because of my colour. It seems to have got worse in recent years in this city.

"With the protests, both sides are doing bad things.

"America is democracy, the constitution and free speech, but the police are very aggressive and inhuman. I follow this trial and I am worried."

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