How George Floyd protests have ignited change in the U.S.

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It’s been nearly three weeks since a video showing a police officer kneeling on the neck of a Black man catapulted the United States and the rest of the world to demand change.

Along with decrying police brutality, protesters have pushed for justice in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, calling for sweeping changes to the country’s policing systems.

“Defund the police” has become a rallying cry in the protests and, in some cases, protesters in some cities are close to achieving just that.

Here are some of the changes that have happened since Floyd’s death:

Minneapolis police and budgets

It was in Minneapolis where Floyd took his last breath.

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A former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder. That alone is a rarity among police-involved killings and something protesters had demanded from the beginning.

Since then, efforts have been made in the city to enact change.

Nine members of Minneapolis city council vowed to dismantle the city’s police department and replace it with a new, community-based system of public safety. The city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, showed reluctance to the change, but the nine council votes would be enough to override Frey’s veto.

Minneapolis has yet to provide details of what the new system might look like.

City council president Lisa Bender told CNN that the dismantling would, in part, mean “instead of investing in more policing, that we invest in those alternatives, those community-based strategies.” She said that city council would need to discuss how to replace the current police department.

“The idea of having no police department is certainly not in the short term,” she added.

Similar funding changes have begun to unfold in other U.S. cities.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed slashing up to $150 million from the police department’s $3 billion budget.

In New York City, city councillors proposed a cut of five to seven per cent for all agencies, including the $5.9 billion budget for the NYPD. New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, later pledged to redirect some of the department’s funding to youth and social services.

Boston, Mass., Lansing, Mich., and Seattle, Wash., also came forward with similar intentions.

Police tactics under microscope

Police officers across the U.S. and the world have come under fire for their excessive use of force tactics since the video of Floyd’s arrest came to light.

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Minneapolis agreed with the state to ban the use of chokeholds or any neck restraint by police and to require police to report and intervene anytime they see unauthorized use of force by a fellow officer. If they don’t, they’ll be subject to discipline as severe as if they themselves had used the excessive force.

The changes are part of a stipulation between the city of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which is conducting a civil rights investigation in response to Floyd’s death in custody.

It also requires authorization from the police chief to use crowd control weapons like chemical agents, rubber bullets, and flash-bangs, as well as more timely decisions on disciplining officers.

Elsewhere, California’s governor ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching neck holds or restraints.

In Tennessee, the Memphis police department introduced a new policy June 9 warning officers of consequences if they do nothing to stop a fellow officer seen engaging in misconduct.

The mayor of Kansas City, Miss., vowed to have an outside agency, like the FBI, review every police shooting involving one of the city’s officers.

In Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore.,  the use of tear gas has been temporarily restricted, specifically on protesters.

In New York, N.Y., the mayor vowed to repeal a law that prevents the public from accessing disciplinary records of officers.

In Louisville, Ky., following the death of Taylor, Mayor Greg Fischer vowed that the city would take steps toward improving police accountability and announced that the city would issue a “top-to-bottom” review of the force.

Breonna’s Law

A considerable change stems from the death of an unarmed Black American woman named Breonna Taylor.

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Taylor was asleep in her Louisville apartment with her boyfriend when police, executing a search warrant they believed was connected to a drug investigation, used a battering ram to enter her home.

A judge had signed a warrant allowing police to search Taylor’s home, approving a “no-knock” provision, which allowed the officers to enter the apartment without warning.

She was shot at least eight times and died in the hall of her apartment.

The city’s Metro council voted unanimously on June 11 to ban the controversial warrants by Louisville Metro officers. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also introduced federal legislation the same day that would ban the use of no-knock warrants nationwide.

The measure has been named after the young woman — “Breonna’s Law.”

Previously, the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department said it would change how it carries out search warrants, including a sign-off from the chief of police. The department also announced it would require all sworn officers to wear body cameras. The officers involved in Taylor’s death were not wearing the devices at the time.

Confederate statues toppled

Protesters leading the charge against racial injustice in the U.S. have set their sights on statues, monuments and buildings of historical leaders in recent days. They are seen by opponents as emblems of slavery, racism and U.S. xenophobia.

In Virginia, protesters toppled a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis about a week after the state governor ordered a statue honouring Confederate General Robert E. Lee be taken down.

Boston on June 9 took down a vandalized statue of Christopher Columbus, who enslaved people while colonizing America for Spain, and decapitated it. Statues of Columbus were also toppled or vandalized in Miami, Fla., Richmond,  Va., and St. Paul, Minn.

In Philadelphia, Pa., the statue of Frank Rizzo, a former mayor and police commissioner, was taken down. In Dallas, Texas, the statue of Jay Banks, criticized for supporting actions that abused racialized Americans, was dismantled.

Some cities have made more formal decisions to remove statues and monuments.

In Houston, Texas, the mayor announced June 11 that two statues that pay tribute to the Confederacy would be removed from city parks.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed it was time to remove statues of Confederate figures from the U.S. Capitol and take their names off military bases, such as Fort Bragg and Fort Hood.

The U.S. Marine Corps has also banned public displays of the Confederate flag at its facilities.

Other changes

On June 8, Democrats in the U.S. Congress proposed legislation to ban neck holds, require federal officers to wear body cameras and increase oversight on departments.

A group of representatives have also said they plan to back a separate bill allowing civil lawsuits against police.

U.S. President Donald Trump is considering unveiling police reform proposals soon, despite Trump and many of his top officials denying systemic racism is a problem in policing at all.

–With files from Reuters and the Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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