Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday slammed the actions of the Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd as “egregious,” and he applauded the peaceful protests held in Louisiana over police violence.
Edwards, a Democrat whose family has deep roots in law enforcement, lauded the peaceful nature of the protests in Louisiana and said citizens were “appropriately” expressing their concerns.
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“Obviously what we saw captured on the video and the unnecessary death of George Floyd, the behavior of the Minneapolis police officer was egregious,” Edwards said.
“It was bad enough with respect to that officer. It was made worse by the fact that you had two or three other officers standing by who didn't intervene and correct the situation on the spot before it got to the point of Mr. Floyd's death.”
A white Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd begged for air. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests that have turned violent in some places and prompted President Donald Trump to call for police to crack down on demonstrators.
Edwards, at a press conference Monday, refused to address a call he and other governors had with Trump, where the president slammed some governors for their response, telling them to “dominate” and “do retribution” to protesters throwing rocks. The governor said Trump was referring to governors of states where protests have turned violent, unlike Louisiana, where demonstrations have been largely peaceful.
The governor added he is working with local and federal officials to “monitor” the demonstrations. Police have been filmed across the country using tear gas, rubber bullets and batons to break up protests.
Louisiana has seen thousands of people demonstrate peacefully against police violence against black people. More than a thousand demonstrators gathered Monday evening near New Orleans City Hall, and hundreds marched in downtown Baton Rouge Sunday to the State Capitol. Others have continued to demonstrate on Siegen Lane.
In addressing the issues raised by protesters, Edwards touted his criminal justice reforms that passed with bipartisan support in 2017, leading to a reduction of the prison population. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, some activists have called on Edwards to do more to reduce the number of people in prisons in jails.
Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, during a budget hearing Monday, said a furlough panel set up to address that issue has only approved 92 prisoners for release, out of an estimated 1,200 prisoners eligible. More than 400 have been interviewed, LeBlanc said.