Vibrant in anger, the mayor of Atlanta, in the south of the United States, announced Monday immediate reforms in the police force of his city, where a black man was shot by a white policeman, reviving the pain of a living country since the murder of George Floyd.
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“I am furious, I am sad and I am frustrated”, launched Keisha Lance Bottoms while denouncing, at a press conference, “the murder” of Rayshard Brooks.
The 27-year-old African American was killed Friday night while trying to avoid a drunkenness stop on the highway. “It shouldn’t have ended like this,” said Mme Bottoms, very moved. “Our police officers must be guards, not warriors,” she said.
The announced changes, following the resignation of the chief of police, relate to de-escalation techniques, the training of officers in the use of force and their obligation to report if they witness abuse of from their colleagues.
It is “a first step” before other measures, but “there is not a minute to lose,” said the councilor, herself African-American, who is suspected as possible running mate of the Democratic candidate for the presidential election, Joe Biden.
The death of Rayshard Brooks took on a particular dimension in the context of the monster protests that have rocked the United States since the death, on May 25, in Minneapolis, of George Floyd, a black 40-year-old asphyxiated by a white police officer.
The mobilization, unprecedented since the civil rights movement in the 1960s, was just beginning to settle down when the new drama intervened.
According to an official report, Rayshard Brooks was asleep, drunk, in his car in front of a restaurant, which employees called the police for blocking access to customers.
Images first show a normal exchange between two white agents and the young man who is taking a breathalyzer. But the situation gets out of hand when they try to handcuff him: the young father takes the Taser of one of the police and flees.
But while, according to the official version, he “pointed the Taser at the officer who used his weapon”, the autopsy confirmed that he had died of two bullets in the back.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Donald Trump in his first reaction on Monday.
The Republican President announced that he would in turn unveil, on Tuesday, a reform of the police. “It will be law and order, but also justice and security,” he said.
White House officials have said they want to encourage good police practice, including linking federal grants to the modernization of policing standards in local units across the country.
Since the start of the movement, Donald Trump has been very evasive about responding to claims.
“Let them go to prison”
The perpetrator, Garrett Rolfe, was sacked and the local prosecutor said he could charge him midweek. Her colleague was laid off.
“I want them to go to jail,” said the victim’s widow, Tomika Miller, on CBS. “If my husband had killed them, he would have taken life.”
At a press conference, she then called on the protesters to remain “peaceful”. “We want her name to be associated with something positive,” she said, in tears, when the restaurant where the tragedy took place was burned down.
By his side, several family members have in turn launched a plea for real reforms. “We demand justice, but also change!” said Chassidy Evans, a niece of Rayshard Brooks.
A crowd echoed his words outside the Georgia State Capitol. “I came as a black man,” said the coach of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team. “I was born black, one day I will die black, but I do not want to die because I am black,” he said again.
These calls, recurrent for three weeks, are starting to bear fruit at the local level.
Several cities have already taken steps to ban controversial practices, such as choking. Marked alive, Minneapolis went further by announcing a dismantling of its police department, to overhaul the whole system.
Chicago Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot, herself an African American, announced in turn on Monday the creation of a task force to review the rules of engagement for local police.
In California, several police unions have promised to get rid of racist agents. And in New York, Commissioner Dermot Shea has promised to reassign 600 agents, notably to local missions.