The death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, after an interaction with police has brought racial injustice concerns in the United States to a centre of attraction.
The 46-year-old man died after being arrested by police outside a store in Minneapolis, Minn.
His arrest was captured on cellphone video, showing a white police office kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he was pinned to the ground. The video led to widespread rage across the country, spurring protests.
Derek Chauvin, 44, the white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck in the video, was charged this Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter as the protests proliferated.
Key Events :
Initial Issue and Arrest
The whole thing started with what was believed to be a counterfeit $20 bill.
On May 25, Floyd visited Cup Foods grocery store in Minneapolis to buy a pack of cigarettes. A store employee believed the bill he used to be counterfeit and reported it to the police.
The store owner, Mike Abumayyaleh, told that he was not at work the day of the incident but that his employees told him that Floyd initially came into the store with a man and a woman. The man tried to use what an employee suspected was a fake bill, which the employee caught and gave back to the man. Abumayyaleh said Floyd returned to the store about 10 minutes later and tried to use a suspicious $20 bill to make a purchase. The employee didn’t realize at first, according to Abumayyaleh, but when they did, they followed protocol and called police.
In a call to 911, the employee told the operator that he asked Floyd for the cigarettes back but “he doesn’t want to do that,” an official transcript reads. The employee also claimed Floyd was “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.”
Floyd was near the store, sitting in a car with two other people, when the police arrived.
The officers involved were responding to a report of a forgery in progress, according to a police department account. Once at the store, they found a man fitting the suspect’s description, Floyd, sitting in a car. The police department said a physical altercation between the officers and Floyd unfolded after Floyd got out of the car.
When the officers approached the car, one of them, Thomas Lane, began speaking with Floyd, according to a statement from prosecutors.
“He pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands,” it reads.
The prosecutors say Lane put the gun away once Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel but “put his hands on Mr. Floyd, and pulled him out of the car” when he ordered him to step out. Floyd then “actively resisted being handcuffed,” the statement reads. When the officers tried to bring Floyd to their cruiser, he “stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic,” the report states.
The report said Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the vehicle, causing him to fall to the ground.
He laid on the ground “face down and still handcuffed.” That’s when onlookers began to record cellphone videos.
The cellphone video taken by witnesses does not show what precipitated the confrontation.
“Please, please, please, I can’t breathe,” Floyd can be heard begging while on the ground “My stomach hurts.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can’t breathe.”
The arrest was filmed by multiple people and shared widely on social media, subsequently going viral. In the video, bystanders can be heard yelling at police to let him get up.
After several minutes, Floyd gradually becomes quiet and still.
The prosecutors’ report indicates Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and a few seconds.
Floyd was taken to a hospital by ambulance, where he died a short time later.
Who is George Floyd?
Floyd was a father who moved to Minnesota for a better life and work, according to his family.
He has two daughters, the youngest of whom is six.
Floyd worked security at a restaurant but, like millions of Americans, had been out of work since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the state’s service industry. The restaurant’s owner told local media that he was a close friend to many of his coworkers.
“A friend that was always available to work, always helps, always helped with cleaning up, we loved him a lot,” said the owner of Conga Latin Bistro. “He had good customer service.”
Floyd’s death is being investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Attorney General William Barr said the federal investigation will seek to “determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated” related to Floyd’s death. He called the video images of the incident “harrowing to watch” and “deeply disturbing.” He added that the process is “proceeding quickly.”
Chauvin was arrested on Friday on murder charges in Floyd’s death. Throughout his time as an officer, Chauvin has had a number of complaints.
The three other officers dismissed from the department with Chauvin are also under criminal investigation in Floyd’s case but have not been charged.
Floyd’s death sparked widespread outrage and protests across America and the world.
Millions have taken to city streets since May 27 to protest police brutality and racial injustice. The epicentre of the demonstrations has been in Minneapolis, where protesters stormed a police precinct and set it ablaze, but has continued spreading across the U.S. since.
Meanwhile, police and political leaders continue to weigh how to address the boiling rage, with curfews and, in some cases, the U.S. National Guard.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters