George Floyd. Know his name. On May 25, 2020, Floyd was murdered in the streets of Minneapolis by men in uniform who are supposed to protect us. In his high school years, Floyd was the star tight end for his high school’s football team. Some of his former classmates remember him as a gentle giant. A Houston native, Floyd moved to Minneapolis with dreams of finding a career and building a new life. The current pandemic resulted in Floyd losing his job as a bouncer at a local restaurant. He stood at six feet and six inches tall, with a heart full of gold.
In 2007, Floyd found himself charged with armed robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison. In Texas, the penalty for aggravated robbery is “a sentence of five to 99 years in a state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.” There is a reason he was only there for five years. There is a reason the justice system doesn’t call for the death penalty for armed robbery. There is a reason that second chances exist.
Following his release, Floyd wanted to start over. He moved to Minneapolis to find a fresh start. His employers remember him being cheerful and entertaining. He worked as a bouncer at the local restaurant Conga Latin Bistro. His employers were fond of him, and Floyd even rented an apartment from the Bistro’s owner, Jovanni Thunstrom. Thunstrom says that Floyd was not only an employee, but a friend. Stories of his kindness have since been reflected on by family and friends all across the country.
On the night of Floyd’s death, the police were called because someone believed that he was attempting to pass off a counterfeit bill. If you haven’t seen the video of his arrest, it is terrifying. Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s head and neck as the 46-year-old man exclaimed that he could not breathe. For seven whole minutes, bystanders could hear Floyd pleading for his life. Initially, it was claimed that Floyd resisted the officers. With the disclosure of new footage, it is apparent that this is not the case. Only 90 minutes after being assaulted by officers, Floyd was pronounced dead. Following his death, Floyd leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter.
Floyd’s family and friends want him to be remembered as caring and funny. They also want his death to incite change in society that is well overdue. Similarly to the death of Eric Garner, Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” represent the utter lack of humanity he was shown. The officers involved were fired shortly after. However, society is rightly calling for more. Floyd’s family, alongside many, many people around the country, were demanding a murder arrest for Derek Chauvin. Being fired was simply not enough.
All across the country, especially in Minnesota, there has been a string of mass protests. Even the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, was questioning why the man who killed Floyd was not immediately in jail. In a press conference, Frey said, “If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now.”
As of Thursday, May 28, county attorney Mike Freeman had yet to act on the clear evidence that was right in front of him. Charging Chauvin with murder would bring justice to Floyd and hope to the Black Lives Matter movement. A long three days after the death of George Floyd, Chauvin was finally charged with third-degree murder. Floyd’s family called the arrest “an overdue step on the road to justice." They hope to see the additional three officers held accountable, and Chauvin’s charge upgraded to first-degree murder.
A friend of Floyd's, former NBA player, Stephen Jackson, sheds light on the systemic racism that exists in our society. Jackson refers to Floyd as his “twin,” adding, “The only difference between me and my bro was I had more opportunity than he did.”
Stories like Floyd’s are far too common. The color of skin should not be a death sentence. The lack of opportunity should not be a death sentence.
Justice for George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter have been trending on all forms of social media throughout the country for the last couple of days. A similar pattern followed the deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and many others. Outrage is shared by celebrities and everyday citizens alike. Many are comparing the photo of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s head to that of Colin Kaepernick kneeling on the field. This now-famous comparison has been shared by hundreds of thousands of people.
Many celebrities, including Will Smith and Michael Rapaport, have brought the presence of cell phones into the conversation of police brutality and systemic racism. “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed,” Smith said. Now we just have phones to record it on.
Prior to the arrest of Chauvin, Rapaport said that the cops involved are “f–ing murderers, not police officers." He went on to raise the question, “What if there was no cell phone footage? Then what? You make up some bullsh–t?” His anger was apparent as he asked the police, “You’re scared of black people?! We’re in twenty f–ing twenty!” His reaction was appropriate, and not uncommon.
So now, here we are. In 2020, discussing the death of yet another innocent black man at the hands of the very individuals who are supposed to uphold the law. It is no longer enough to just post on a social media story. While Chauvin has since been charged with murder, it is important to stay involved. He has not been convicted yet. He deserves to be locked up, and it is important to take action to make sure that happens. Contact local officials. Text “Floyd” to 55156. Sign the petitions you see circulating. No matter your race, gender, or sexuality: demand justice for George Floyd. Make sure that Derek Chauvin ends up behind bars. Do not turn away from what makes you uncomfortable.
While Chauvin has been charged, the other officers present, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng are still running free. These officers were complicit in the murder of George Floyd. The arrest of Chauvin is sending a message that the badge cops wear cannot protect them from ending up on the other side of the bars or interrogation table. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it." Thoughts and prayers alone no longer suffice. Action is required.