Pompeo Laments George Floyd’s Death, Defends Police on Protests

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(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in an email to staff that he shares the outrage over George Floyd’s death while rejecting what he called “vile propaganda” by China, Iran and other adversaries.

In the message sent to State Department staff Wednesday afternoon, Pompeo tread carefully. He voiced outrage over the Minneapolis policeman who knelt on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded “I can’t breathe.” But he echoed President Donald Trump’s stance that local, state and federal law enforcement officers behaved appropriately in controlling sometimes violent protests.

“I share America’s outrage at the brutal killing of George Floyd and concerns about turmoil sweeping our cities,” Pompeo said. “Our country will prosecute Mr. Floyd’s killers, respect the right to protest peacefully, and prevent our streets from descending into violence.”

The remarks were Pompeo’s most detailed response yet to Floyd’s death and the protests that have broken out across the nation and around the world.

The death prompted criticism from allies such as Australia over a police attack on an Australian news crew and claims from nations such as China that the events of the last several weeks showed the hypocrisy of U.S. calls for democracy and respect for human rights elsewhere.

“Yes, the United States is imperfect,” Pompeo said. “We should always be both proud of what we’ve achieved and humble knowing there is more to do.”

As he had in a news conference earlier in the day, Pompeo argued that in the U.S., reporters are free to question their political leaders and protesters are free to demand change.

“The American response to events of these past weeks presents a stark contrast to what happens in totalitarian regimes around the world,” Pompeo said. “We must reject unequivocally the false charges – many of them vile propaganda emanating from China, Iran and other autocracies – questioning America’s credibility in promoting human rights and democracy abroad.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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