By N. Elmor
On Monday the 25th of May, George Floyd was at a local Minneapolis deli shop when a shop employee called the police because he believed Floyd had paid him with a counterfeit cheque. Shortly after, two police officers approached him and dragged him from his car, stating that Floyd had “physically resisted”. He was then handcuffed, escorted by the officers to their patrol car and placed stomach down on the pavement. After that, one of the police officers, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes. Meanwhile, onlookers were in shock and filmed what was happening, also screaming for the cops to stop. A widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying screaming things such as "Please", "I can't breathe" and "Don't kill me". As Floyd continually expressed his inability to breathe, gasping for air, he soon became distressed and unresponsive. The four officers present- J. Alexander Kueng, holding Floyd's back, Thomas K. Lane, holding his legs, Chauvin, kneeling on his neck, and Tou Thao, looking on nearby and stopping onlookers from getting closer, refused to check his pulse after the onlookers after them to. The witnesses decided to call an ambulance, and the paramedic finally checked Floyd's pulse while Chauvin was still kneeling on his neck. Floyd was then lifted onto a stretcher, taken away in an ambulance and declared dead at Hennepin County Medical Centre minutes later. All four officers were fired the following day.
George Floyd was a 46-year-old African American man, who had two daughters: one aged six and the other 22. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, is a 44-year-old white man and has worked in the Minneapolis Police Department for almost two decades. Previously to such killing, Chauvin had 18 complaints on his official record and has already received discipline from the department, two letters of reprimand and been involved in three police shootings.
The Minneapolis Mayor, Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo released the following statement in a press conference the next morning: "What we saw was horrible. Completely and utterly messed up." The same day, memorials were placed outside of the shop where the incident occurred. The American Civil Liberties Union also responded calling for a fair, independent and transparent investigation. The ACLU-MN Executive Director John Gordon said, "you can't watch this appalling video posted by brave eyewitnesses on social media without seeing police officers' callous disregard for a Black man's life, and you can't help but conclude that yet another tragic death was both needless and preventable".
Since the incident, the FBI has been conducting a federal civil rights investigation at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department. On Friday the 29th, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd's death and the Hennepin County attorney assured that the other three officers will also face charges.
The video taken by bystanders soon spread online and millions of people saw what happened, where demonstrations and protests began on the 26th of May on the site of Floyd's death in Minneapolis and has since quickly spread all over the US. Thousands have also used the hashtag #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd on social media and celebrities, politicians, companies and news agencies have spoken out on what happened, protesting against police brutality, and joining the Black Lives Matter movement.
The former US president, Barack Obama and first lady, Michelle Obama are amongst those who spoke out after the tragic occurrence. Mr Obama said that "it's natural to wish for life 'to just get back to normal' as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us, but we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal'” Ms Obama accompanied him and claimed that "it is up to all of us" to root out racism.