Authorities with their feet on the necks of Black America. It’s a story all too familiar. But this time it was a knee.
Four Minneapolis Police Department officers were fired after killing George Floyd while responding to an alleged forgery call. According to an MPD’s statement, “Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress. Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.”
The MPD also claimed that Floyd was ordered to step out of his car and when he did, he resisted arrest. In a video seen around the world, Floyd could be seen with an officer’s knee on his neck while he cried out, “I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can’t breathe.”
Eventually, an ambulance transported Floyd to Hennepin County Medical Center where he died a short time later. The FBI is now taking part in the investigation of Floyd’s death.
Surveillance video from a restaurant in the area showed officers handcuffing Floyd and taking him out of his car and to the sidewalk. They eventually pick him up and escorted him with his hands still behind his back before the confrontation occurred.
In a statement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey expressed disgust over the officers’ actions:
“Being Black shouldn’t be a death sentence,” … said. “When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense.”
But the statements weren’t good enough for local activist organization “Reclaim The Block” who stated on Twitter that the mayor “shows some compassion in his remarks, and then at the end he says this: ‘This does not reflect the values Chief (Medaria) Arradondo has worked tirelessly to fulfill.’ But these are the values of police, of MPD. Violence. Chief Arradondo is not the cause or the fix for that.”
Melvin Carter, the mayor of neighboring city St. Paul, who’s Black, kept things short with a tweet denouncing what the video revealed.
“The video of a Minneapolis police officer killing a defenseless, handcuffed man is one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I’ve ever seen,” said Carter. “The officer who stood guard is just as responsible as his partner; both must be held fully accountable. This must stop now.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, people around the country have been ordered to shelter-in-place and take precaution when going outside. But another killing of a Black person at the hands of police led Black folks and local anti-police brutality violence groups to take to the streets. The police responded in kind.
Hundreds of people stepped out of their homes and marched to 3700 Chicago Avenue (the scene of the arrest) to protest Floyd’s killing and call for an end to police brutality against Black people. They also marched to the Minneapolis Police’s 3rd Precinct building, where the fired officers worked, to call for an end to police brutality.
Police responded by dressing in riot gear, forming a barrier around the precinct and using tear gas, smoke bombs, flash grenades and shooting rubber bullets into the crowd of protesters. Protesters responded by throwing bricks and rocks at police cars.
The circumstances surrounding Floyds’ death echoed those of Eric Garner who was killed by police on Staten Island via an illegal chokehold while he screamed “I can’t breathe!” Activist Josmar Trujillo told the AmNews that you could take it back to another police incident that happened more than 25 years ago.
“What happened to George Floyd echoes what happened to Eric Garner which itself echoed what happened to Anthony Baez in 1994,” said Trujillo. “This loop of brutality and trauma has played out in the minds of people of color, and Black people more specifically, since before I was born. The fact that police brutality doesn’t even take a pause during a once in a lifetime public health crisis also reminds us how deep and entrenched this problem truly is across America… However, regardless of who is or isn’t fired, the message from this country seems to be the same now as it was in the past: Black life doesn’t matter.”
The AmNews was set to interview Esaw Garner, the wife of Eric Garner, but she didn’t respond to our call. However, Garner’s mother Gwen Carr released a statement about another Black death at the hands of police. “It’s painful but true that Black lives continue to be destroyed by police officers in many communities across our country,” said Carr. “They keep killing us, and it’s the same story again and again.”
Like Trujillo, she applauded the firing of the officers, but feels like it doesn’t matter.
“Nothing will bring George Floyd back to his family, just as nothing can bring Eric back to me,” said Carr. “I am glad that the firing of the officers is one fight George Floyd’s family will not have to keep fighting. In my case, it should not have taken five years of fighting and protesting before NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired for his role in my son Eric’s death. But it did.”
Linked by the brutal murders of their loved ones Carr, National Action Network President Al Sharpton and Floyd’s family had a private conversation. Initiated by the Floyd family’s attorney Benjamin Crump, they asked that Carr and Sharpton speak at Gregory’s funeral whenever it takes place. Sharpton said that NAN would throw its support behind George’s family and Crump.
“This morning, Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr and I had a phone call with the family of George Floyd to express our solidarity and resources until justice is served,” stated Sharpton. “Our community is devastated as the criminal behavior by officers in the Minneapolis Police Department was captured in a video for the world to see. How these officers handled themselves is beyond comprehension and undeniably shows why they should be arrested and charged.”
A week filled with protests and police killings during a global pandemic might be too much for some groups to take. Mayor Frey understands that, but he could only say one thing to the Black community.
“To our Black community, to our family: I’m sorry,” said Frey.