Almost one year ago, on 25th May 2020, George Floyd was killed during his arrest in Minneapolis. Suspicion had been raised by a cashier in a grocery store that Floyd was attempting to pay for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. 4 police officers from the Minneapolis Police Department attended the scene, including Derek Chauvin. Chauvin, a former employee of Minneapolis PD, proceeded to restrain Floyd by kneeling upon his neck for over nine minutes. During this horrific ordeal, George Floyd repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe” at least 20 times, whilst also calling for his mother. Chauvin, however, refused to release the pressure upon his neck to allow him to breathe, despite being compliant and in handcuffs. Following these actions, George Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Derek Chauvin gave George Floyd a death sentence for a crime that would either result in a prison sentence or a fine. Now he has been on trial for it.
The killing of George Floyd sparked international protests and demonstrations against the systemic and systematic racism that is faced by black people in everyday life. The protests were concentrated in larger cities, especially in the US, as the police brutality and inequal treatment of black people – particularly black males – was highlighted. However, the protests were not contained solely to the States, they also took place in England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. A truly united international effort was shown and condemned the actions of the police departments in America, following a series of unlawful deaths of black citizens, including the notable death of Breonna Taylor in March 2020.
Since the events on 25th May 2020, the Chief of the Minneapolis Police Department has fired Derek Chauvin and the other police officers whom attended the scene that day. Derek Chauvin has since been the centre of a prominent trial in America where he faced charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. He also faced another charge of third-degree murder. The trial started on 29th March and the judgement was delivered on the 20th April.
The prosecution is said to be arguing that the cause of death was Chauvin’s restriction of George Floyd’s ability to breathe by using an unsafe restraint method. Chauvin’s defence is attempting to sow doubt into the minds of the jurors by suggesting that Floyd actually died of a drug overdose after fentanyl and methamphetamines were found in his blood. owever, as the trial progressed, this theory had been disagreed with by multiple experts to the court. The trial continued to unfold each day, nevertheless, it was the result at the end that decided whether justice would be served or whether systemic racism will be allowed to continue unchecked. Following the judgement delivered by the court yesterday, Chauvin has been found guilty on all three charges. Sentencing will be delivered at a later date. This is a significant first step towards securing accountability, but there is still a long road ahead.
As the trial continued to reveal new information about the training of police officers and their physical power over suspects, the problem continues to deepen. Only a mere 10 miles away from the courthouse where Derek Chauvin is facing murder charges, a female officer shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. He made a phone call to his mother to say that he believed that he had been pulled over for having air fresheners, hanging from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in some states. He had been pulled over for having expired license plates – and was handed a death sentence. It has been purported that it was an accident and that the officer intended to deploy her Taser on Wright, as shown in her bodycam footage which was released on Monday, however there are differing opinions on this. The officer and the local chief of police have both since resigned, however there is still significant unrest in the area. The killing of Daunte Wright has led to more protests in Minneapolis and other nearby towns, to which the police departments have responded with brutality, tear gas and rubber bullets.
Where do we go from here?
The vicious cycle will continue until the system either breaks or is broken. Reassignment of funding is needed in the United States to enable the problem to be quelled at the source before the situation extends and damages more lives, more families, more communities. From the perspective of a white woman, funding and support is needed for disadvantaged population of Black people; it would be delusional to expect equality between races when one is on the backfoot without even trying and when the other holds the lion’s share of the power, particularly in the police force.
By Ambrin Williams