Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin relaxed as he was suffocating George Floyd. His hands were in his pockets. He was looking around and his knee was on the neck of the handcuffed man for nearly nine minutes until he died.
It didn’t matter that the 46-year-old Black man cried out, “I can’t breathe!” and “They are trying to kill me!” Chauvin didn’t move. And when paramedics finally arrived, there was no attempt to perform CPR on Floyd.
And even though Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, it is too little too late. The incident has ignited protests, fires and destruction in cities across America from Minneapolis to Atlanta Georgia and from Los Angeles to New York City. Even the Corona Virus has taken a back seat to this incident as civil rights leaders, activists and politics speak about the horrendous act against Floyd.
In a tweet, President Obama said the Floyd case calls on the nation to “create a ‘new normal,’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions and our hearts.”
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson called the murder of Floyd “an unspeakable tragedy,” and while some news outlets have focused on violence after his death, Johnson said, “The uprising spreading across the country is fueled by systematic racial issues that have been ingrained in the fabric of this country for decades.”
National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial said in a statement, “Minneapolis has erupted in outrage. The primal scream of anguish — what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the language of the unheard’ — reverberates across the nation. We pray for those who have taken to the streets, that they will refrain from violence – and for the police who are responding, that they exercise restraint and de-escalate tensions.”
The officers who participated in the deadly assault of George Floyd were fired within 24 hours, and shortly after the National Urban League and the Urban League of the Twin Cities demanded their names, have been identified. They are Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
“These men no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt. Their word can no longer be trusted. Their records — which, in the case of Chauvin and Thao, include a disturbing number of use-of-force incidents and civilian complaints — must be thoroughly examined for evidence of the racism and inhumanity they displayed during George Floyd’s deadly assault,” Morial said.
Rev. Al Sharpton said on his MSNBC show that he will go to Minneapolis to preach Floyd’s funeral. He interviewed Floyd’s brother who talked about the conversations he had with President Donald Trump, Vice-President Pence and former Vice-President Joe Biden.
Philonise Floyd said that he told Biden, “I never had to beg a man before but I asked [Biden] could he please, please get justice for my brother, please. Because I need it, I just don’t want to see him on a shirt like those other guys. Nobody deserves that.”
Floyd said his call with Trump was much briefer.
“It was so fast. He didn’t give me the opportunity to even speak. It was hard. I was trying to talk to him but he just kept like pushing me off like ‘I don’t want to hear what you’re talking about.’ I just told him I want justice. I said that I can’t believe that they committed a modern-day lynching in broad daylight,” he shared.
President Trump made comments about the incident Saturday following the historic launch of the SpaceX rocket with two astronauts aboard. It was the first manned launch in nine years.
“Yesterday, I spoke to George’s family and expressed the sorrow of our entire nation for their loss. I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace, and I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, and menace. Healing not hatred, justice not chaos are the mission at hand,” Trump said. “I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protests and we hear their pleas, but what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with the memory of George Floyd.”
Also during the MSNBC interview, Floyd gave his thoughts about former officer Derek Chauvin and the other officers involved in the incident in a nine-minute video, which shows Floyd’s brother screaming as he is dying.
“They all need to be convicted of first-degree murder, and given the death penalty because they didn’t care about what they wanted to do with my brother. He wasn’t a person to them, he was scum. He was nothing,” he told Sharpton. “I’m hurt, my family is hurt. His kids are hurt. They will grow up without a father. Everybody is crying and in pain right now. So if they could do anything please arrest those other officers.”
Hennepin County State’s Attorney Mike Freeman is prosecuting the case. At a recent press conference, he said that his office is still investigating the case, but people in Minnesota and across the country are not waiting for him to speak out.
“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” said Minister Russell Pointer of the Metropolitan Church of Christ in Minneapolis. His comments were part of a Zoom forum that was out on Facebook live by the Christian Chronicle.
From Minnesota to Washington, D.C., people are talking, protesting and demanding change at a moment because of the incident that has forced the nation to focus on something other than the COVID 19 pandemic.
On Friday night, people in droves walked fast to Lafayette Square in front of the White House and shouted “No justice, no peace.” There were other protests in New York, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles and on Saturday there protests in Baltimore that were mostly peaceful but turned violent after people starting throwing rocks in a park across from City Hall.
President Trump and his aides have consulted with the military and authorized the use of the National Guard in certain cities, many pundits are calling wondering how will this urban crisis end anytime soon.
But in a major speech delivered after he talked to the Floyd family, Biden said. “And once again we heard the words, and they heard them, ‘I can’t breathe’ — an act of brutality so elemental, it did more than deny one more Black man in America his civil rights and his human rights. It denied him of his very humanity. It denied him of his life, depriving George Floyd as it deprived Eric Garner of one of the things every human being must be able to do: breathe. So simple, so basic, so brutal.”
Biden continued, “You know, the same thing happened with [Ahmaud] Arbery, the same thing happened with Breonna Taylor, the same thing with George Floyd. We’ve spoken their names aloud. We’ve cried them out in pain and in horror. We’ve chiseled them into long-suffering hearts. They’re the latest additions to the endless list of stolen potential wiped out unnecessarily. You know, it’s a list that dates back more than 400 years. Black men, Black women, Black children.”
He concluded, “The original sin of this country still stains our nation today, and sometimes we manage to overlook it. We just push forward with the thousand other tasks in our daily life, but it’s always there, and weeks like this, we see it plainly that we’re a country with an open wound. None of us can turn away. None of us can be silent. None of us can any longer, can we hear the words ‘I can’t breathe’ and do nothing. We can’t fail victims, like what Martin Luther King called ‘the appalling silence of good people.’”