Protests across the US have rolled into their seventh day - with those seeking to highlight the horrors of police brutality and institutional racism finding themselves increasingly threatened and attacked by police forces armed with military grade equipment and buoyed by calls from the White House to “dominate” the streets around them.
Protests have sparked up across the country following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after being pinned to the ground by an officer. Mr Floyd had been accused of buying a packet of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill by a shop worker.
The death is the latest in a string of killings of unarmed black men, women and children at the hands of US law enforcement deemed a symptom of systemic racism in both police forces and society at large. Protesters have invoked the memories of the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York who, like Mr Floyd, told officers he couldn’t breathe while being pinned by them; and the recent death of paramedic Breonna Taylor, 26, who was shot in her Kentucky home by an officer during a narcotics raid. A lawsuit alleges officers did not announce they were entering, and had already apprehended the suspect in their investigation when she was shot.
Since Mr Floyd’s death the US has seen one of the most intense moments of civil upheaval of the past century. Some 21 states have brought in the National Guard, with protests erupting in at least 140 cities amid a backdrop of nationwide lockdown measures introduced to stem the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus - which has led to more deaths in the US than any other country. The number of deaths now stands at about 107,000, with 1.8 million people infected.
And with looting and vandalism following a number of otherwise peaceful protests across the country under the banner of the movement Black Lives Matter - including in Washington DC where fires were set near the White House and Minneapolis, the city Mr Floyd died in, which saw its police station torched - the public have been met with more brutality from officers.
Officers arrested 4,100 people across the weekend alone, while footage from scenes across the country has shown black bystanders harassed, peaceful protesters pinned to a wall with no escape as they were barraged with tear gas, and journalists fired upon with rubber bullets.
President Donald Trump has been accused of doing little to placate concerns of protesters. On Monday heavily armoured riot police were deployed to clear the streets with tear gas as he made his way to St John’s Church in Washington DC for a photo op, during which he posed with a bible.
Meanwhile black restaurateur David McAtee was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky, as officers enforced a curfew in the area. The Louisville chief of police has since been relieved of his duties after it was discovered two officers implicated in the shooting had not had their body cameras switched on to document the incident.
One person who has been volunteering as a medic at protests told The Independent he was targeted by police during a demonstration in Brooklyn, despite wearing clear markings identifying himself as a medic.
“If the police weren’t there agitating, nothing would happen. The confrontation happens because the police are present.”, he said.
“As a medic it has become difficult to remove people to safety. On Friday night I was carrying a semi-conscious person to safety. They wouldn’t even let me pull them to the side. I could barely carry the person as they were battoning me.”