Video of George Floyd’s arrest shows him repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” as a police officer kneels on his neck.

Thousands of people have gathered in Minneapolis at the site of George Floyd’s violent arrest a day earlier.

The protesters surrounded a police precinct where the officers involved in the arrest were based.

Video of the arrest shows Mr Floyd repeatedly telling a police officer he couldn’t breathe, but the officer kneeling on his neck didn’t let up for more than several minutes. Mr Floyd died hours later in hospital.

“We’re here to let them know this can’t be tolerated, there will be severe consequences if they continue to kill us this will not go on another day,” one protester said.

A video posted to social media showed protesters sitting on the ground, while officers fired tear gas, flash grenades and smoke bombs.

Other videos showed protesters smashing police cars, windows, and throwing rocks and bricks.

There are reports at least one officer was injured in the protests.

Officers sacked

Four Minneapolis police officers were fired from the force on Wednesday over the death.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the officers’ dismissal on Twitter, saying, “This is the right call.”

Most protesters were peaceful while a few started destroying police property.
Most protesters were peaceful while a few started destroying police property. Star Tribune

At a news conference earlier in the day, Mayor Frey said it was clear the death of Mr Floyd was unjustified, and he acknowledged that race was a factor in the fatal encounter.

The case was eerily reminiscent of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man in New York City, who died after being put in a police chokehold and telling the officers, “I can’t breathe.”

Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, told the news conference that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had opened an inquiry into the incident at his request.

“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” the mayor said. “For five minutes we watched as a white police officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man. For five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help.”

The officers involved were responding to a report of a forgery in progress, and found a man fitting the suspect’s description in a car, according to a police department account.

After Mr Floyd exited the vehicle, the department said, a physical altercation between the officers and Mr Floyd ensued. When they handcuffed Mr Floyd, he appeared to be in medical distress, according to police.

‘I can’t breathe’

Mobile phone footage of the incident does not show what led up to the confrontation. It opens with Mr Floyd seen lying beside the rear wheel of a vehicle, with a white officer pinning him to the street by pressing a knee into Mr Floyd’s neck.

Mr Floyd can be heard repeatedly moaning and gasping while he pleads, “Please, I can’t breathe, please, man,” as onlookers gather around, growing increasingly agitated and shouting at police to let him up. After several minutes, Mr Floyd gradually grows quiet and ceases to move.

An ambulance took the suspect to the hospital, where he died a short time later, police said. No weapons were involved, and no officers were hurt in the incident, according to police.

In the case of Mr Garner, he was placed in a banned chokehold by a white New York City police officer who was trying to arrest him for illegally selling loose cigarettes on the street.

Mr Garner’s death fueled nationwide protests against police brutality.

His dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement calling attention to a wave of African-Americans and other minorities who died at the hands of police using unjustified lethal force.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who has been retained by Mr Floyd’s family, said in a statement: “This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning about a non-violent charge.”

“How many ‘while black’ deaths will it take until the racial profiling and undervaluing of black lives by police finally end?” Mr Crump said.