George Floyd: Killed at the Hands of Police
Ifeoluwa Aigbiniode discusses the circumstances surrounding George Floyd's death, and explores the outrage that has been triggered across the globe. Protests have taken place on an international scale, as calls for reform, specifically within police departments, are becoming more widespread. This article also explains why the motto "All Lives Matter" is an inappropriate one.
On Monday, May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died after being murdered by a Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin. Chauvin, a white man, pinned Floyd to the ground and pressed his knee into his neck for more than 9 minutes while Floyd begged for help and repeated several times that he was unable to breathe. The police officers were responding to a 9-1-1 call from the staff of a grocery store in Minneapolis, who suspected he had tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for cigarettes.
Floyd’s disturbing encounter with the police, which led to his death, was recorded by bystanders, and widely circulated across social media. This sparked nationwide protests that call for the end to police brutality against African Americans. Thousands of people in other countries like South Africa, New Zealand, France, and the United Kingdom have also held protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States.
Chauvin was arrested and taken into custody on May 29 and was originally charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, but the charges have since been raised to second-degree murder and manslaughter, after further public outcry. The other three officers who were involved, Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were not initially charged or arrested, but are now being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin has been the subject of 18 complaints since 2001, for which he rarely faced consequences. Only two of those complaints were ‘closed with discipline’. An example of this was in 2007 when he was accused of dragging a woman with her new-born baby out of the car after she was accused of speeding. In 2011, he also was with a group of officers that fired at 23-year-old Alaska Native Leroy Martinez, who was spotted running from a shooting. An eyewitness accounts that Martinez had dropped his weapon and held his hands up in the air before he was shot by the police.
George Floyd’s murder in the hands of the police is yet another incident that highlights what black people in America already know. That they’re three times more likely to be killed by the police, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed compared to white people. Black people also account for 24% of police killings, despite only making up 13% of America’s population.
A common statement as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement is"All lives matter." It is important for non-Black people to understand that Black Lives Matter does not suggest or imply that their lives do not matter or that Black lives are more important than theirs. What it does is acknowledge centuries of systemic racism and a unique set of issues that Black people experience which non-black people historically have not and do not face because of their skin colour (i.e. police brutality, housing discrimination, criminal justice, healthcare, etc). Using ‘All Lives Matter’ derails the very necessary conversation we need to be having about how black communities are affected by racism.
The initial protests that occurred in response to George Floyd’s murder turned into riots and looting of stores occurred. The truth is that many of these protests were planned as peaceful demonstrations but then the police used aggressive law enforcement tactics on the peaceful protests like shooting rubber bullets, using tear gas, pepper spray, batons, amongst other weapons which then created more chaos. Why would the police think police brutality is an appropriate way to respond to peaceful protests against police brutality? President Trump’s undeniably disturbing response to the riots: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” can be dated back to 1967: this threat was originally made by Miami police chief Walter E. Headley, who has been long accused of using racist tactics in his force’s patrols of African-American neighbourhoods during the civil rights campaign in the 60s.
Again, it is important to remember that Black people have every right to be angry; police brutality has been occurring for years, and still prevails today. Even when we have tried protesting peacefully, we have also been criticized or punished severely for that. An example of this is Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests that ultimately got him kicked out of the NFL.
If you continue to be more upset by the looting over the injustices black people face every day at the hands of the police, then you are also part of the problem. Now is the time for everyone to speak up and contribute to change. We certainly do not need to see another black person be murdered by the police - we should not have to die before reforms are implemented.