May 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it has made investigating the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis a “top priority,” as protests have erupted nationwide to demand justice.
The African-American Floyd died Monday after he was restrained by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a grocery store.
Video of Floyd’s arrest, in which he is heard telling officers he can’t breathe, spawned immediate shock and civil unrest in Minneapolis that later spread to other cities nationwide Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office said Thursday they’re conducting “a robust” criminal investigation.”
“The Department of Justice has made the investigation a top priority and has assigned experienced prosecutors and FBI criminal investigators to the matter,” they said.
In Southern California, hundreds of demonstrators organized by Black Lives Matter-LA marched in downtown Los Angeles and at one point blocked a freeway. Some protesters vandalized a California Highway Patrol car by smashing its rear window.
The demonstration ultimately drew an angry crowd outside of the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice.
In Tennessee, dozens of protesters gathered outside police department headquarters in Memphis and engaged in verbal confrontations with several dozen officers and a couple counter-protesters.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for the arrest of the officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck during the confrontation. The Minneapolis Police Department said it fired him and three other officers who were involved.
The Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd died was the site more violence and looting on Wednesday, with protesters throwing rocks at a local police precinct station and setting fire to buildings.