On Monday, May 25, 46-year-old George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground and pressed his knee into his neck, while Floyd pleaded for help and repeatedly said he could not breathe. The officers were responding to "a report of a counterfeit bill being passed" when they located and handcuffed Floyd, who was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center following the encounter.
The disturbing interaction was filmed and quickly shared online, the four officers involved in the incident have since been fired, and the FBI is also investigating. On October 7, Derek Chauvin, the former officer who pinned Floyd with his knee, was released from jail as he awaits trial on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin had been at Hennepin County Jail since his May 29 arrested and posted $1 million in bond. The New York Times reports that Chauvin used a bail bond agency for the transaction. He's expected to appear in court next March, according to NBC News.
"The technique that was used is not permitted; is not a technique that our officers get trained in on," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. "And our chief has been very clear on that piece. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with a knee to someone's neck."
The three other officers charged and facing two charges each of aiding and abetting Chauvin in connection to Floyd's death are Thomas Lane and J.A. Keung, who assisted in restraining Floyd and Tou Thao, who watched the events nearby, per CNN. The trio are charged with aiding and betting murder in addition to aiding and abetting manslaughter. According to Complex, all four ex-officers have been released on bond, as the previous three officers posted $750,000 each in their release. They are expected to be tried together, although a judge is reportedly assessing a request for each to face trial individually.
On June 3, CNN reported that all four officers involved in the exchange that killed Floyd would be charged, according to a tweet from Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. The state's Attorney General Keith Ellison also increased Chauvin's charge to second-degree murder. According to charging documents filed on June 3 (via BuzzFeed News), the three officers alongside Chauvin were charged with aiding and abetting a crime.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree in George Floyd’s murder and also charging other 3 officers. This is another important step for justice.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) June 3, 2020
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, told CNN in June, "I am confident that these officers will be charged before people in Minneapolis say their final goodbyes to George Floyd, may he rest in peace," referencing a public memorial scheduled in the city the following day. According to Minnesota law, third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years, and is considered when someone causes someone's death "without intent." Second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 40 years.
Separate autopsies from experts hired by Floyd's family and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner both concluded that his death was a homicide, CNN reported. However, the two entities diverged on what caused the homicide. The independent autopsy said Floyd died of "asphyxiation from sustained pressure" when his neck and back were compressed by Minneapolis officers during the arrest. This means pressure cut off blood flow to his brain.
Meanwhile, the medical examiner's office said the cause of death is "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." This means that Floyd's heart failed and their release says heart disease was a factor in his death, with no mention of asphyxiation. The independent examiner didn't find signs of heart disease.
For weeks after Floyd's death, protestors poured into the streets of Minneapolis near the site where Floyd was arrested, chanting Floyd's words from the video: "I can't breathe." The phrase is also a direct reminder of the death of Eric Garner, who said the same words in 2014, after being held in a chokehold by police in New York. Garner was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Police in riot gear confronting protester in Minneapolis tonight. Many have gathered in the streets to protest the killing of #GeorgeFloyd while he was restrained by police officers. Four officers were subsequently fired for their actions. pic.twitter.com/Jv0blCFyBB— Frank Calhoun (@Phrygian0) May 27, 2020
The Minneapolis protestors have been met with officers using tear gas and rubber bullets, a stark contrast to the way police recently responded to white demonstrators who have protested for states to open back up in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 27, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz tweeted that the protests had turned "extremely dangerous" and urged people to leave, and the next day, Walz declared a state of emergency and activated the state's National Guard. Over the course of the week, people have been looting stores, and at one point, set an evacuated police precinct on fire. TIME has reported that one man was shot to death during the protests in Minneapolis; police have said they have a suspect in custody.
While reporting on the protests in late May, a crew of CNN journalists were arrested by state police live on television after identifying themselves as members of the media. The crew has since been released from police custody.
President Donald Trump tweeted on May 29 in response to the protests:
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right…..”
“....These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The above tweet has been marked by Twitter as violating the “Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump is currently representing Floyd's family and tweeted on May 28, "#GeorgeFloyd’s family thanks all of the protesters for joining them in standing for JUSTICE. They know we’re all hurting and any decent human being who watches the video of police killing their Gentle Giant will also feel shortness of breath." Crump is a civil rights attorney who is also representing the families of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while out for a run in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her Kentucky apartment.
If you are looking for ways to speak out against Floyd's death, help his family, or get educated on the history of systemic racism and police violence in the United States, consider:
- Donating to the memorial fund George Floyd's family has set up. The GoFundMe page also includes an address where anyone can send cards or contributions.
- Supporting organizations working on the ground in Minneapolis, including the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which pays bail for low-income individuals; Black Visions Collective, which works to organize black communities in Minnesota; Reclaim the Block, which works to move money from the police department into other parts of the city that promote health and safety; and the North Star Health Collective, which provides health care services and resources to protestors.
- Helping protesters with legal fees and bail-out funds and supporting organizations including the Know Your Rights Camp founded by Colin Kaepernick, the Brooklyn Bail Fund, the Bail Project, the National Bail Fund Network, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, and Free Them All for Public Health
- Supporting the GoFundMe for Tony McDade, the transgender man killed in Florida on May 27.
- Contacting the Minneapolis mayor and the Hennepin County attorney at 612-673-2100 and 612-348-5550, respectively. You can also email the attorney at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Minneapolis police department at email@example.com.
- Continuing to educate yourself, speaking out against injustice, and expanding your anti-racism work. Writers and activists Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein have compiled a document of resources, if you need a place to begin. There are also several anti-racism book lists, including this and this.
- Signing a petition to demand the police officers involved are charged.
- Talking to your kids about what's going on. There are great resources at The Conscious Kid and Teach and Transform.
- Reading more about George Floyd and how his friends and family remember him. One friend, Vanita Williams, told BuzzFeed News: "He was articulate. He was grounded. He was spiritual. He was an athlete. He was an organizer. He was a comforter. He was an encourager."
This post will continue to be updated.
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