George Floyd was an African-American man, born in Fayetteville, N.C., but grew up in Houston where most of his family still lives. He was a standout high school athlete who played basketball for South Florida Community College. In life, his relatives said that the 6-foot-4 Floyd never made an enemy. He didn’t like to argue or getting himself tangled up with drama. Due to his loving and kind personality, a former classmate of Mr. Floyd said that he earned the nickname “gentle giant” when they were in high school.
Moving to Minneapolis in recent years was supposed to be a fresh start for Floyd. He used to work as security at Conga Latin Bistro in Minneapolis for five years. Jovanni Thunstrom, the owner of the bistro, mentioned that everyone loved George, and that includes his employees and customers.
Floyd came into Cup Foods – a grocery store in Minneapolis – with a man and a woman. The man tried to use what an employee suspected was a counterfeit $20 bill, but an employee caught it, gave it back to the man, and they left. Roughly 10 minutes later, according to the co-owner, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, Floyd came back into the store and used a suspicious $20 bill.
The employee didn’t immediately notice, and Floyd left. However, the employee followed protocol and called the police. Floyd was still outside the store when officers arrived.
Minneapolis officers – precisely four cops – responded to a report of alleged forgery in progress at 3759 Chicago Avenue South. When they arrived at the scene, officers encounter Floyd, identified as a suspect in his car. Two of the officers then ordered Floyd out of his car and said that he physically resisted officers – which is later pertinent to the aftermath story. Floyd was handcuffed. A video taken by a bystander indicates that Floyd was then pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis officer named Derek Chauvin, keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness. At the same time, another officer named Tou Thou continuously pushed onlookers away from the scene as they shouted, “he isn’t moving.”
According to the bystander video, Floyd pleaded for air, as the white cop, Chauvin kept pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck. He was seen moaning and crying that he couldn’t breathe. After the ambulance arrived, the same video also shows a medical worker touching Floyd’s head as officer Chauvin endured on top of him. Paramedics and police eventually flipped Floyd over while he was still cuffed, placed on a gurney and into an ambulance, where a responder released his hands.
By the time Floyd was on the way to the hospital, he was unresponsive and without a pulse. Nonetheless, first responders and ER personnel refused to give up on him for almost an hour.
“He still had an outside chance,” Hennepin Healthcare EMS Chief, Marty Scheerer told the Star Tribune. Unfortunately, despite their endeavors to save the 46-year-old man, Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center some 90 minutes after his encounter with Minneapolis police officers.
The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) sent a press release regarding George Floyd’s death, calling it a “medical incident.” They announced that the FBI would also intervene in this investigation. They’re investigating whether the officers committed a civil rights violation. Officials also declared that the four police officers: Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng – that were on the crime scene – have been fired.
Not only that, at a press conference that day, Minneapolis Mayor, Jacob Frey had also described the incident as “completely and utterly messed up.” He also added: “I believe what I saw and what I saw is wrong on every level. Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Hundreds of people in Minneapolis gathered outside the police departments Third Precinct. The noontime protest was peaceful, with demonstrators chanting and lifting signs. Protestors also gathered at the home of officer Derek Chauvin in a St. Paul suburb. However, during the night, protests turned violent, with some demonstrators looting, setting fires and breaking windows.
As the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey made an emotional plea for peace Thursday after what has happened with George and with the incident that occurred the night before – regarding the violent protests and everything. He stated that feeling anger and sadness is not only understandable. It’s right.
“It’s a reflection of the truth that our black community has lived,” he said.
Frey appeared to be holding back tears as he mentioned, “I believe in Minneapolis… I love Minneapolis. And in believing in our city, we must believe we can be better than we have been. We must confront our shortcomings with both humility and hope. We must restore the peace so we can do this hard work together.”
Besides Frey, Governor Tim Walz, too, raised his voice, concerning this incident. “It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system, and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they’re charged to protect.”
Minneapolis Police Chief, Medaria Arradondo said he acknowledged both anger and frustration, but that as a chief, he can’t allow criminal acts. He said the violence “compounds the trauma that already exists” in the community.
On Friday, the fired Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin was charged by Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of George Floyd. In accordance with the criminal complaint against Chauvin, the now ex-police officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 second total. The complaint also states that police are trained, knowing this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous.
WHAT THEY’VE GOT TO SAY
Cup Foods Co-owner
Cup Foods co-owner, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, remembered Floyd as someone who was always pleasant. He said that Floyd might not have even known that the bill was counterfeit. He also stated he saw no sign of Floyd resisting arrest in the shop’s surveillance video, which contradicts with the police report.
“What took place outside after that was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh said. “The murder and execution were something done by the police and the abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”
His family said they want the four Minneapolis officers involved charged with murder.
“They were supposed to be there to serve and to protect, and I didn’t see a single one of them lift a finger to do anything to help while he was begging for his life. Not one of them tried to do anything to help him,” said Tera Brown, Floyd’s cousin.
Meanwhile, George’s brother, Philonese Floyd, sobbed on Thursday morning as he described the pain his family was experiencing and an urgent need for justice. Philonese declared that the involved officers could have tased or maced him, instead of putting their knee in his neck and just sat on him and then carried on.
“They treated him worse than they treat animals,” he added.
Floyd’s death has once again reminded us that racism is real and brutal. On Wednesday, Floyd’s family launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds that would cover funeral and burial expenses and to assist Floyd’s family in the days to come as they continue to seek justice for him. As of Thursday evening, the fund had raised over $1,100,000 from over 52,000 donors. Up until this point, not only Americans, but people from all around the world are raising their voices through social media, asking justice to be upheld.
Words by: Nat Padma
Header cred: Forbes
Sources: Fox9, New York Post, CNN, NBC News, CBS News, USA Today, The Guardian