By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — More than 400 people were demonstrating on the Las Vegas Strip Friday afternoon calling for policing reforms following the death this week of a black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer.
The crowd gathered in triple-digit-heat in front of the dormant fountains of the Bellagio casino-resort, holding signs and chanting “No justice, no peace!” and “Black lives matter,” as passing cars honked. They then began walking north up the Las Vegas Strip in front of casinos still shuttered because of coronavirus-related closures. The group rallied in front of a shopping mall and briefly blocked traffic on north end of the Las Vegas Strip before marching south again, where they spilled into the streets and blocked traffic.
At least two people were detained by police, though it was not clear why. Several officers used batons to push back a few protesters during the arrests.
Live video streaming online from a KSNV-TV helicopter showed protesters marching up the street, streaming between cars stopped in the traffic.
The demonstration was in memory of George Floyd, who died late Monday after bystander video showed him pleading for air for several minutes while a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. A Minnesota prosecutor charged the police officer on Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Britney Bautista, a-15-year-old from Las Vegas holding a sign that said “Black Lives Matter,” said she attended “to get justice” for Floyd and “the people who die who shouldn’t die.”
“We all have the same blood color,” she said. “Why should skin color make a difference?”
Dom Taylor, a 22-year-old from Las Vegas, handed out leaflets with guidelines detailing to protesters their rights if approached by police or arrested.
“We want to recognize the flaws in the system against our minority brothers and sisters,” said Taylor, who is white.
As the demonstration was getting started Friday afternoon, three officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department walked up to the crowd, introduced themselves and told the demonstrators that the officers were there to make sure everyone stayed safe and said they supported the group’s right to protest.
“I think our community has stayed ahead of these things,” Roxann McCoy, president of the NAACP in Las Vegas who advocated for Las Vegas police reforms following the May 2017 death of Tashii Farmer Brown, who died after being placed in a police chokehold.
“You only know if you learn something if you face the same situation again and respond differently,” McCoy told The Associated Press. “We try to learn from the past so we don’t make the same mistakes.”
The officer in Brown’s death, Kenneth Lopera, was fired and faced criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter, that were later dropped after Lopera’s attorney and police union representatives presented evidence that Brown died of cardiac arrest and methamphetamine intoxication.
A federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit is pending in Las Vegas against Lopera and Las Vegas police.
Las Vegas police underwent a review by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in 2012 and made changes based on findings and recommendations after criticism of a pattern of police shootings and use of force.
Associated Press photographer John Locher and writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.
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