ORLANDO, Fla. – In his first public comments since George Floyd protests began in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis thanked the actions of peaceful protestors trying to prevent violence and called the actions of the Minneapolis police officer appalling.
Protestors around the country and the world have been calling for justice and change after Floyd died in police custody.
DeSantis said during a news conference Wednesday he has watched the video of Floyd’s arrest showing the officer pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee until he lost consciousness. The video sparked national outrage and has led to questions about the use of force and law enforcement training.
“When I saw the video of that cop murdering George Floyd, I was just absolutely appalled by what I saw, but I immediately asked folks at FDLE and others, ‘How in the hell could you get away with even doing that tactic?’ and sure enough, state of Florida, You do not put a knee on a neck like that,” he said of the video.
In Central Florida, News 6 asked local law enforcement for their policies on neck restraint tactics. Most agencies do not allow those tactics.
The governor also praised peaceful demonstrators, crediting them with trying to put a stop to any violence.
[LIVE UPDATES: Protests over death of George Floyd continue across the US]
“I also want to thank the peaceful demonstrators who have engaged in lawful first amendment activity, some of whom have helped to stymie attempts of some protesters seeking to engage in violent activity,” DeSantis said. “We really appreciate their commitment to non-violence.”
A demonstration attended by thousands in Orlando Tuesday ended with Orlando police officers deploying tear gas after the 10 p.m. curfew. Police said some of the remaining attendees threw rocks at them. The city will now be under an 8 p.m. curfew while the rest of county remains on a 10 p.m. curfew.
“The gatherings that have been occurring statewide there have been respectful gatherings of large crowds with isolated instances of individuals who take the opportunity to exploit these events usually at night to engage in unlawful activities,” DeSantis said.
The governor said he sent 500 Florida National Guardsmen to Washington, D.C., at the request of U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Those will be heading to the capital region on Wednesday.
The request came two days after law-enforcement officers forcibly dispersed a crowd of peaceful protesters outside of the White House to allow President Donald Trump to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church to take a photo.
DeSantis said Florida Highway Patrol troopers and Florida National Guard around the state have been assisting local law enforcement when needed.
Between Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Miami and Fort Myers, more than 110 people have been arrested since demonstrations began last weekend, according to the governor.
“Florida won’t tolerate rioting, looting or violence,” DeSantis said.