On May 25, 46-year-old George Floyd was killed after an encounter with police officers in Minneapolis. Floyd was an African American man who had the Minneapolis Police Department called on him when he allegedly tried to use forged documents at a corner store in Minneapolis. According to the officers, he appeared to be intoxicated.
Floyd died after Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd pleaded with officers, repeatedly saying that he could not breathe. After five minutes of the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, he fell unconscious and later died at the hospital. His death led to much-deserved public outcry and anger, both locally and internationally.
Minnesota has a long history of police brutality against unarmed Black men.
David Smith, Terrance Franklin and Jamar Clark are just a few of the Black men who have perished at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. These cases were also met with public outrage, but very little change came from these tragedies.
Floyd’s unjustified death confirms the blatant racism present in the Minneapolis Police Department. Our law enforcement system has shown clear examples of corruption. In Minneapolis, the average rate of Black people killed by police is 8.2%; for white individuals, that rate is 0.6%. Officer Chauvin has had several complaints filed against him. The reprimands he faced were not severe enough. In those previous incidents, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, then Hennepin County attorney, opted for little punishment.
When looking at deaths from police officers nationally, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people and are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed.
The police force — which many claim to be a force of protection, law and order — originated as slave patrols aimed at assisting the wealthy landowners of forced labor camps, commonly referred to as plantations, retrieved their runaway slave property. This institution, with its foundation of white supremacist ideals, has yet to face necessary reform. Instead, its racism has adapted to the 21st century.
Now, officers within the force rarely step up and speak out. Controlling corruption is nearly impossible due to the presence of the blue code of silence, also known as “The Code” or “The Curtain.”
A video of Floyd’s murder has been making rounds around the internet, spreading awareness of it. However, the video is controversial, because it forces people in the Black community to relive trauma over and over again.
Instead of sharing the video of his murder, share pictures of him. Say his name. Donate to his family or to organizations supporting protesters. Sign petitions calling for the reprimanding of the officers responsible for Floyd’s death.
In the days following Floyd’s murder, the city of Minneapolis became home to large protests against the racism and police brutality present in the Minneapolis Police Department. Protests on Tuesday evening turned into riots, looting and the burning of multiple buildings. These lootings took place at large retail stores like Target and were an expected retaliation to the continuous violent incidents at the hands of police officers across the country.
Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters and the city quickly erupted into chaos. Local businesses were looted and set on fire, burning some completely to the ground. There has been one known fatality since the beginning of the protests amid multitudes of injuries, and Mayor Frey has since called for the involvement of the National Guard.
Charges need to be pressed against these officers in order to stop this violence from continuing. It is not enough to condemn the actions of law enforcement. Historically, Black Americans have been targeted by police brutality. It is time to speak out and demand there be change and systematic reform.
From 2013 to 2019, 99% of murders by police officers did not result in charges. It is time to start reprimanding police officers and holding them accountable for the horrors they subject Black Americans to. The time for silence and compliance is over.
We implore Governor Tim Walz to appoint Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison as a special prosecutor of this case. Officer Chauvin has been arrested and charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder, but Chauvin’s prosecution needs to go further. The remaining officers need to charged and held accountable for their inaction. They should not be added to the list of other law enforcement that get to walk free. No person should be killed for simply existing while Black.
You want the violence to end? We’ve seen the anger. We’ve heard the cries. Stop turning a blind eye when you know exactly what to do.