by Manavi Nag & Shiva Chopra
On 25th of May, George Floyd was arrested by Minneapolis police and killed.. A convenience store owner had called the police after Floyd had purchased a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 note. Once the Minneapolis police arrived on the scene, they quickly pinned Floyd on the ground and Police Officer Chauvin (a white ma) placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. There were four police officers against the lone Mr Floyd. Even after Floyd showed no signs of life, Officer Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck and it remained there even after the paramedics had arrived. George Floyd was a 46-year-old, black man, a father, husband and friend. Mr Chauivn has been charged with second-degree murder and the three other officers are charged with aiding second-degree murder.
In his infamous last words, “I can’t breathe”, George Floyd’s death was the last straw, the burning point of people all over the world. His last words are now the tagline for the Black Lives Matter Movement, that works to end police brutality against black people solely because of their skin colour. This situation sparked national protests in America and global awareness about the magnitude and sheer amount of problems that black folk in America face based on their skin colour. The George Floyd situation wasn’t the first of its kind and certainly isn’t the last either. But it did highlight the racial injustices that black people face by triggering long-overdue questions about the validity of police force in America and the progression of us, as a human race. Black people have lived in a state of constant apprehension for their lives and have been conditioned from young ages to deal with situations of racial injustice against them.
Many similar cases to George Floyd’s have been shoved under the carpet over the years, now finally being brought to light. Take Adama Traoré for example, the similarity between his case and George Floyd’s case is strikingly similar. Both black, men died of asphyxiation due to the weight of police officers on them. Both black, men and fathers couldn’t breathe in their final moments. Eric Garner’s death has been compared to Mr Floyd’s death as well. Garner, a father of six aged 43, was arrested in New York on allegations of selling cigarettes unlawfully. Police officer Daniel Pantaleo, white, can be seen in a video recorded by a bystander, with his arm wrapped around Garner’s neck, putting him in a chokehold. Before beginning to lose consciousness, Garner, an asthmatic, was heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” Later he was pronounced dead.
George Floyd’s murder isn’t surprising because we have seen it time and time again. There is a cornucopia of issues that black people face, and now, with the death of Mr Floyd are they being given the level of attention that they deserve. In the midst of the CoronaVirus, people all across America have taken to the streets to protest against the police and seek justice for not only the death of George Floyd but Ahmad Arbery, who was an unarmed 25-year-old black man, who was shot while jogging in a neighbourhood in Georgia. Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed in her own house because her house was believed to have been used by one of two men under suspicion for drugs, to receive packages. The Louisville Police shot the 26-year-old healthcare worker, 8 times. And a plethora of more deaths that have happened to innocent black people because their skin colour is seen as a weapon and is a sign of justifiable threat and danger.
For a number of reasons, police officers don’t face justice frequently. — from strong police unions to the blue wall of silence to timid prosecutors to disinclined juries. However it is the Supreme Court that, by attempting to destroy a critical civil rights statute, has allowed a system of violence and harassment to provide police officers with what is, in effect, almost unlimited protection from prosecution for acts taken while on the job. In far too many cases the badge has become a get-out-of-jail-free pass.
In 1967, the year that Miami’s police chief invented the term “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” to intimidate civil rights protesters, first the Supreme Court articulated a concept of “qualified immunity.” In the example of police brutality against a group of protestors in Mississippi, the court ruled that police officers should not face legal responsibility for upholding the law “in good faith and with probable cause”. That is a high quality to satisfy. But what tends to make many such cases almost extremely difficult for the plaintiffs to win is the court’s requirement that any violation of rights be “clearly established”—that is, another court must have previously found a case with the same context and facts, and found the officer was not immune there. This is a judge-made rule; on a “clearly established” condition, the civil rights law itself says nothing. In practice, however, it has meant that police officers win almost every time, as it is very difficult to find incidents which are the same in all respects. Due to this, the plaintiff always loses, no matter what the case.
The protests have been going on for a few weeks now, and the nation is in a position of social divide and unrest. With their leader, President Donald Trump threatening to use violence at the protests, people all over America have come together as one large entity. Many of the protests have remained peaceful, with battle cries of “Black Lives Matter” at the forefront, however, a handful of protests have experienced looting, tear gas, and violence. The racial injustice has triggered looting which includes burning of property and smashing of buildings, which have been combated with enforcement by the police. Despite all this, one thing that remains an underlying factor in all of this is that not only Americans but people all over the world are disgusted and sick of the treatment of black people by the police and demand to see some impactful change and will remain to protest and rally together until they do.
Overall, it is evident for anyone to see that people are outraged by the killings of innocent black people all over the world. However, Black Lives Matter is not a trend or a one-time fad. It is a real problem that affects millions of people all over the world.