Every so often, a person is thrust into the world’s spotlight and unexpectedly becomes a catalyst for change in the world. Such was the case with George Floyd, a resident of Minneapolis, MN who, on Monday, May 25th, 2020, lost his life at the hands of a police officer in a manner that has ignited outrage across the globe.
People everywhere have watched a video shot by a teenage girl, Darnella Frazier, who recorded the actual murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. Officer Chauvin was responding to a call from staff at Cup Foods grocery store, accusing Floyd of attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill.
Officer Chauvin wrestled Floyd to the ground and placed his knee on his neck, holding it there for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. During that time, Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe (shades of Eric Garner), and also cried out for his mother, who was deceased. Officer Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even after it was apparent that Floyd was totally non-responsive. A paramedic on the sidelines tried to get the officer to let him take Floyd’s pulse, and other bystanders were screaming at Chauvin to stop, but with no success.
From that video, and several others, it was apparent that Floyd did not resist arrest. Three other officers were on the scene, and none seemed to intervene, though some people are saying that one officer allegedly tried to tell Chauvin that Floyd “might die.” Floyd did die. Subsequently, all four officers lost their jobs and are facing serious charges.
People were so outraged at this obvious videotaped lynching that it started a wave of protests and rioting, especially during the time before the officers were arrested. Interestingly, after several days of rioting wherein people destroyed property as well as participated in peaceful demonstrations, Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged. The other former officers were not charged at that time. The rioting and protests continued. Finally, the other three officers were arrested and charged.
The protests didn’t stop.
In fact, Floyd’s unwarranted murder by law enforcement has set off a world-wide firestorm that threatens to undermine the very fabric of the nature of law enforcement. Unlike in previous demonstrations stemming from police misconduct, this one has received the attention and support of a multicultural contingent that has reached around the world. It is as though a dam of indignation has burst within the public consciousness.
Permanent changes seem to be on the horizon, however, hopefully with long-sought law enforcement reforms enacted. One of the most surprising outcomes so far is a cry from places all across the country to defund police departments!! In fact, Minneapolis has already voted to disband the police department! And all of this is happening while the COVID-19 pandemic rages.
In spite of this, people have come out in droves to demonstrate, which for some could be a matter of risking their lives, or at least compromising their health. But they persist – all colors, all ages, and all races.
That last point is important. Hope looms on the horizon. For the first time, what seems like a critical mass of white people are beginning to understand what Black people have been trying to tell them for ages; they are finally getting it that Black people are insecure in America, that many feel it is taking a chance with their lives to leave their homes.
Even staying at home is no guarantee of a Black person’s safety. In March, a 26-year-old Black woman, Breonna Taylor, an EMT and aspiring nurse, was shot and killed in her bed as police stormed her home by mistake and shot her eight times. They were at the wrong home.
Class, age, or gender doesn’t matter in an environment where Black people can be killed without provocation by the police, who seldom suffer significant consequences for their crimes.
It is way past time that the lawlessness exhibited by many American police officers toward Black people cease and desist. Black people are now getting an opportunity to see that change can be made when people stick together. While the attention of the world is on the Black plight, it’s time to seize the time, organize, unify with our allies, and change the world! A Luta Continua.