Video from Fort Lauderdale appeared to show a black officer screaming at a white officer who pushed a kneeling black woman, setting off tensions and turning what had been a peaceful protest into a violent demonstration.
Footage of the Florida incident went viral on Twitter on Sunday as protests continued for the fifth day following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. As protests broke out across the country, police have come under fire for what critics say are heavy-handed tactics and civil rights violations of some of the protesters and looting suspects.
The video from Fort Lauderdale, shared by people who were at the protest, appeared to show an unidentified white officer confronting some of the protesters and walking into the crowd. As he turned to walk back toward a line of officers, the white police officer was seen shoving a black woman who was kneeling on the ground in what appeared to be a form of peaceful protest.
The white officer was then ushered away by his colleagues, including a black police officer who followed and screamed at him. It was not clear if they were from the same department, as several departments were reportedly called out to help maintain order.
As the Sun Sentinel reported, police in Fort Lauderdale used tear gas and percussion grenades to disperse the crowd, which witnesses and protesters said had been peaceful until the police officer’s shove on the kneeling black woman. At close to 8:30 p.m. local time, the Fort Lauderdale Police announced an order for the remaining crowd to disperse. The order commanded “all persons so assembled or within Downtown Fort Lauderdale to immediately and peacefully disperse.” The order said those who did not disperse could be arrested or subject to other police actions.
The Fort Lauderdale incident was one of many across the country where police were accused of brutality when confronting protesters. In Minneapolis, officers were caught on video firing what appeared to be a paint canister at people who were on their porch after the citywide curfew, despite the order saying that people were only banned from streets and public spaces and were still allowed to remain out on their own property.
Other cops have been accused of taking aim at journalists covering the unrest, including a Denver Post photographer who said police intentionally fired pepper balls at him, striking him twice and leaving a gash on his arm.