Attorney Benjamin Crump is representing the family of George Floyd.

Attorney Benjamin Crump is representing the family of George Floyd. Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

WASHINGTON — The attorney for George Floyd’s family on Sunday, responding to the growing number of protests that have erupted throughout the country in Floyd’s name, said the family does not condone violence, but believes “the only thing that can put out these fires are police accountability and equal justice.”

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” called for criminal charges against the Minneapolis police officer charged in Floyd’s death to be upgraded to first-degree murder. Crump argued that former officer Derek Chauvin’s refusal to stop kneeling on Floyd’s neck despite multiple pleas by Floyd and other observers proved his “intent” to kill during an arrest last Monday caught on video by bystanders.

“We now have the audio from the police body cam and we hear where one officer says he doesn't have a pulse, maybe we should turn him on his side, but yet, Officer Chauvin says no, we're going to keep him in this position. That's intent,” Crump said.

Crump’s calls for upgraded charges came as President Donald Trump on Sunday continued to blame far-left groups exclusively for violent protests that have erupted throughout the country, even as federal authorities and state officials in Minnesota have warned that white supremacist groups and far-right extremists are also likely behind some of the destructive scenes.

The president on Twitter vowed the United States "will be designating Antifa as a Terrorist Organization," referring to the anti-facist movement that skews far-left.

Trump issued the same threat against Antifa last July, prompting legal analysts to raise questions about his authority to do so — U.S. law currently only allows for foreign groups to receive such a designation and attempts by Senate Republicans to designate Antifa as a terrorist group have floundered. Civil liberties groups have questioned Trump's ability to enforce such a designation when the Antifa movement itself is not a clearly defined group with a leadership structure, but rather a patchwork of activists.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appearing on the Sunday show circuit derided the president’s response to the protests so far, arguing his tweets over the past week were escalating tensions. The president faced a firestorm of criticism on Friday for tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” a phrase tied to a Segregationist police chief in the 1960s. The president later said he was unaware of the phrase’s roots and was merely warning that looting would lead to violence among protesters

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the sole black Republican in the Senate who often advises Trump, told Fox News Sunday that Trump's tweets are “not constructive tweets, without any question.”

Scott said he told President Trump in a private conversation Saturday morning, "It helps us when you focus on the death, the unjustified, in my opinion, the criminal death of George Floyd.”

Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md.), appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said Trump’s tweets were not helpful.

“It's not lowering the temperature,” Hogan said of Trump’s tweets. “It's sort of continuing to escalate the rhetoric. I think it's just the opposite of the message that should have been coming out of the White House.” 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, appearing on CNN, said Trump “should just stop talking,” likening the president’s response to the uproar he caused in 2017 when deeming there were “very fine people on both sides” of clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters. 

“This is like Charlottesville[, Virginia] all over again. He speaks, and he makes it worse. There are times when you should just be quiet," Bottoms said. "And I wish that he would just be quiet. Or if he can’t be silent, if there is somebody of good sense and good conscience in the White House, put him in front of a TelePrompTer and pray that he reads it and at least says the right things because he is making it worse."

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," called for an investigation into whether outside actors were involved in escalating peaceful protests into outright riots.

“There’s been a lot of videotape taken by demonstrators of people who are very suspicious … and there have been other, you know, photographs of cars with no license plates,” Ellison said. “I’ve talked to people who are demonstrating. Some of them say they think some of those folks are from Minnesota, and they also say some people have come from out of town. What the exact political motivation is, is unclear at this point. We need to investigate it.”

Lawmakers on the Sunday show circuit argued Floyd’s death was just the latest in a string of police brutality cases that underscore the need for policing reforms.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said several House Democrats including New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) are putting forward legislation to “look at the full picture.”

“This is part of a pattern,” Pelosi said, describing Floyd’s death as “murder.” 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he is drafting legislation to create a “national police registry for misconduct” to “help us to stop officers who accrue such large actions of misconduct, and then have nothing happen to them.”

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