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Charges against police added, upgraded in Floyd case as protests continue

As protests over the death of George Floyd continue in cities nationwide, there were major developments Wednesday in the legal response to the case. Derek Chauvin, the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, is now charged with second-degree murder, while three other officers are accused of aiding and abetting a murder. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There are new criminal charges tonight in the killing of George Floyd.

    The death of the Minneapolis man at the hands of police has roiled the nation, and large-scale protests are continuing.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Minnesota, the family of George Floyd, gathered on the eve of his memorial service, again learned news in his case.

    Today, the charge against Derek Chauvin, the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck, was raised to second-degree murder. The three other officers who watched and stood near as Floyd died have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.

    Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump:

  • Benjamin Crump:

    The family has always wanted first-degree murder. They wanted him charged to the full extent of the law.

    Whatever George Floyd would have been charged with had the roles been reversed, that's what the families have asked for.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Crump said there is still the possibility of increased charges.

    Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the decision earlier.

  • Keith Ellison:

    These charges are based on the facts that we have found, and we're going to pursue them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It came after a night of some of the largest and largely peaceful nationwide protests yet.

  • Protesters:

    I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In New York, protesters defied a new earlier curfew, with thousands flooding the streets well into the night, with only scattered looting.

  • Marcus Alexander Andre:

    I don't preach violence. I preach equality. I want all of us to be equal, and that's why I stand.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Ultimately, police officers began pushing people off the streets.

  • Man:

    Keep going. keep going.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Igniting a few clashes.

  • Andre Mercharles:

    They grabbed innocent people for no reason, and just started, like, cuffing them, pushing them to the ground. This dude was — he's a journalist and a press. He has a press pass, and they pushed him to the ground.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Washington, D.C., the scene outside the White House was also starkly different from one night earlier.

    A new tall fence barred protesters from Lafayette Park next to the White House. The crowd remained large and broke curfew to gather, but police did not use force to remove them, and things remained peaceful.

    Protesters pointedly worked to block anyone attempting violence.

  • George Piece:

    There hasn't been any violence, aside from a street sign that was torn down. And the crowd booed him, because that's not what we're here for.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany today raised concern about police officers who have been injured, including David Dorn, a retired officer who was killed in St. Louis while trying to protect a friend's store.

    President Trump had demanded that governors and mayors get tougher and use the National Guard. Today, in a FOX News Radio interview, he claimed credit for things appearing to get calmer.

  • President Donald Trump:

    If you look at what happened in Minnesota, they were getting decimated. And after three days of watching it, I demanded that the National Guard be utilized, and in one day, it was over.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president also talked this week of invoking the Insurrection Act to use the active-duty military in a bid to restore order.

    But, today, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told Congress he opposes taking that step now.

  • Secretary Mark Esper:

    The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.

    We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Secretary Esper also defended his Monday night walk with Trump to a nearby church for a presidential photo-op, after police forcibly cleared away peaceful protesters.

  • Secretary Mark Esper:

    What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going when we arrived at the church, and what the plans were when we got there.

    It was also my aim, and General Milley's, to meet and thank members of the National Guard who were on duty that evening in the park.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer again criticized what happened outside the White House that night.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    This administration ordered federal officers to gas peaceful protesters and charge on horseback and defend our monuments like battlefield positions. What is President Trump doing to this grand democracy?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The White House and Pentagon today denied that tear gas was used on the protesters Monday night.

    The White House said that Attorney General Barr gave the order to push back the crowds, and it was part of a previously made decision.

    Meantime, the world is watching the unrest across the United States. In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. is hypocritical.

  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (through translator):

    They kill people, committing crimes openly, and they don't apologize. But they shamelessly keep talking about human rights. Apparently, the African-American man who was killed there was not a human being.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In China, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times said the U.S. show of force proved Beijing was right to crack down on pro-democracy crowds in Tiananmen Square 31 years ago tomorrow.

    The tragedy of George Floyd's death has sparked global protests in solidarity against racism from London, to Paris, to Cape Town, South Africa.

    Back in the U.S., new protests flared up across cities this evening for a ninth straight night of unrest.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    This evening, former President Jimmy Carter released a statement, calling for justice and acknowledging the pain of racism. He wrote: "We all must shine a spotlight on the immorality of racial discrimination. But violence, whether spontaneous or consciously incited, is not a solution."

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