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Police tactics in George Floyd protests under scrutiny after footage of heavy-handed action

Police tactics for controlling the protests breaking out across America were facing criticism on Sunday after incidents of heavy-handed action triggered a fierce backlash. 

A video showing a New York police car on Saturday night ramming into a group of protesters who had surrounded it, throwing some to the floor amid screams, was widely condemned. 

Footage of the incident circulated rapidly on social media and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congresswoman from New York, warned that people could have been killed. 

A second police car had joined moments earlier and also pushed forward into protesters, though not as far. 

But Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor, stood by the policemen, arguing the protesters – some of whom threw water bottles and traffic cones just beforehand – were in the wrong. 

“I wish the officers had found a different approach, but let’s begin at the beginning. The protesters in that video did the wrong thing to surround that police car, period,” he said.

The trigger for the protests was the death of George Floyd, a black American, in police custody.

Gruesome footage eight minutes long had shown a white police officer called Derek Chauvin pinning Mr Floyd to the ground with a knee on his neck as he said “I can’t breath”. 

Pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and plastic shields were all in use across the country as police attempted to ensure curfews in more than two dozen US cities were adhered to. 

Alarm has also been raised at the multiple examples of police force towards journalists covering the protests that have emerged during the week. 

On Saturday an LA Times reporter covering the unrest in Minneapolis claimed that police “just fired tear gas at reporters and photographers at point blank range”. 

Multiple black journalists have been arrested while reporting, including one CNN broadcaster while he was live on air from Minneapolis on Thursday night.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a female reporter exclaimed “I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!” live on air as she was hit by a pepper ball as an officer appeared to aim at her. 

An article from the investigative journalism group Bellingcat reported there had been at least 50 separate incidents of journalists being arrested, injured or targeted by police during the protests. 

Supporters of the police tactics shared other footage which appeared to show individual officers being beaten up by some who were on the streets. 

They argued that among the protesters were rioters looking to provoke police into a clash and noted the difficulty in enforcing the law during raucous demonstrations. 

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