What have these protests against police brutality accomplished?

Since George Floyd's death, Minneapolis has banned chokeholds and neck restraints, upgraded charges against Derek Chauvin, and vowed to dismantle the 800-member police department. 

Jerry Holt/Star Tribune/AP
City Council member Alondra Cano speaks during "The Path Forward" meeting at Powderhorn Park on June 7, 2020, in Minneapolis. A majority of the Minneapolis City Council has promised to dismantle the police agency, but the Mayor says he doesn't support "full abolition."

Calls for deep police reforms gained momentum as leaders in the city where George Floyd died at the hands of police pushed to dismantle the entire department.

Mr. Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests demanding a reckoning with institutional racism that have sometimes resulted in clashes with police, but many officers took a less aggressive stance over the weekend when demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful.

Two weeks after Mr. Floyd, an out-of-work black bouncer, died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council vowed to dismantle the 800-member agency.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” City Council President Lisa Bender said Sunday. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

On Monday, Derek Chauvin – the officer filmed pressing his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck and one of four to be fired from the department in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd's death – is scheduled to make his first court appearance since the charge against him was upgraded to second-degree murder.

This is not the first time an American city has wrestled with how to deal with a police department accused of being overly aggressive or having bias in its ranks. In Ferguson, Missouri – where a white officer in 2014 fatally shot Michael Brown, a black teen – then-Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities considered dismantling the police department. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms.

The state of Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, and the first concrete changes came when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

On Sunday, nine of the Minneapolis City Council’s 12 members vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Mayor Jacob Frey said he doesn’t support the “full abolition” of the department.

Protesters nationwide are demanding police reforms and a reckoning with institutional racism in response to Mr. Floyd’s death, and calls to “defund the police” have become rallying cries for many. A heavy-handed response to demonstrations in many places has underscored what critics have maintained: Law enforcement is militarized and too often uses excessive force.

Cities imposed curfews as several protests last week were marred by spasms of arson, assaults, and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. More than 10,000 people have been arrested around the country since protests began, according to reports tracked by The Associated Press. Videos have surfaced of officers in riot gear using tear gas or physical force against even peaceful demonstrators.

But U.S. protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful as several police departments appeared to retreat from aggressive tactics.

Several cities have also lifted curfews, including Chicago and New York City, where the governor urged protesters to get tested for the virus and to proceed with caution until they had. Leaders around the country have expressed concern that demonstrations could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.

For the first time since protests began in New York more than a week ago, most officers Sunday were not wearing riot helmets. Officers in some places in the city casually ate ice cream and pizza. Some officers shook hands and posed for photos with motorcyclists at one rally.

Things weren’t as peaceful in Seattle, where the mayor and police chief had said they were trying to deescalate tensions. Police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters after rocks, bottles, and explosives were thrown at officers Saturday night. On Sunday night, a man drove a car at protesters, hit a barricade then exited the vehicle brandishing a pistol, authorities said. A man was shot and taken to a hospital in stable condition, the Seattle Fire Department said.

Dual crises – the coronavirus pandemic and the protests – have weighed particularly heavily on the black community, which has been disproportionately affected by the virus, and also exposed deep political fissures in the U.S. during this presidential election year.

Mr. Trump’s leadership during both has been called into question by Democrats and a few Republicans who viewed his response to COVID-19 as too little, too late, and his reaction to protests as heavy handed and insensitive.

On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah marched in a protest in Washington against police mistreatment of minorities, making him the first known Republican senator to do so.

“We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality,” Mr. Romney, who represents Utah, told NBC News.

On Sunday, Mr. Floyd’s body arrived in Texas for a third and final memorial service, said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. A viewing is planned for Monday in Houston, followed by a service and burial Tuesday in suburban Pearland.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Jake Seiner reported from New York, Lisa Marie Pane from Boise, Idaho, and Kimberlee Kruesi from Nashville, Tennessee. AP writers around the world contributed.

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