Vancouver officials, calling on residents to remain peaceful, expressed sadness and condemnation as the death of a man in police custody in Minneapolis stirred protests, many of which turned to unrest.
A viral video from Monday captured a Minnesota police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed African American man, for several minutes before his death in police custody. The officer, Derek Chauvin, is facing third-degree murder and manslaughter charges, while charges may follow for other officers at the scene.
Since Floyd’s death, a growing number of protests have spoken out against police behavior. Some in the large crowds have caused physical violence and destroyed property.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said in a statement Saturday that she, on behalf of the city council, was “shocked and saddened” by Floyd’s death and extended condolences to his family and affected communities.
The mayor also mentioned the protests Friday night in Portland.
“Peaceful, meaningful demonstration is an exercise of our right to free speech and assembly, but it is unfortunate when these protests, including the one in Portland last night, devolve into unlawful, destructive and dangerous activity,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “The outrage at the root of these protests is understandable, but I hope we will see peaceful demonstration and dialogue as the path forward.
“Here in Vancouver, we will continue to protect our community with the professionalism and respect that preserves rights and free speech while effectively serving public safety needs. I am proud to serve as mayor of a community that honors our differences, values peaceful assembly and exercises its voice without violence. I have the utmost confidence in the Vancouver community to remain peaceful.”
In another statement Saturday, Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain called Floyd’s death “disturbing, upsetting and heartbreaking.”
“This incident absolutely does not reflect the oath police officers take to serve and protect their communities,” McElvain said. “The actions depicted in the video of this incident absolutely do not reflect the values of the Vancouver Police Department or the way that we train our officers.
McElvain added that law enforcement is based on “public service, compassion, safety and care for others.
“Hearing a man begging for his life, saying he cannot breathe, while other officers stand by and do nothing, is not reflective of the values of law enforcement in any way,” McElvain said. “The result of the actions of a few officers left a scar on the honorable profession of policing, and fractures the hard-earned relationships between the men and women who put on the uniform across our nation each day and the communities they are privileged to serve.”
In addition to the unrest in Portland on Friday night, several people in Seattle were arrested. Gov. Jay Inslee called on protesters, in a statement Saturday, to express their views “peacefully and safely.”
“Together, we grieve for the death of George Floyd, and many, many others. The events in Minnesota and across the nation the past few nights have been stunning and illustrate how inequity causes people to lose faith in their public institutions,” Inslee said. “I fully support the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. I applaud every Washingtonian standing for what they believe in, but we must do so in a way that allows space for these important and necessary discussions, not in a way that inspires fear.”