THE GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS are an ongoing series of protests and riots against police brutality that began as a local protest in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan, Minnesota, before spreading throughout the United States and then worldwide. The protests began in Minneapolis on 28 May 2020, following the death of George Floyd in which Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for about 08 minutes, assisted by three other police officers—after pinning Mr Floyd the deceased to the ground during an arrest the previous day.
Protests quickly spread across the USA and to other countries in support of Black Lives Matter. Demonstrations that began on May 26 in Louisville, Kentucky, over the shooting of Breonna Taylor by the police on 13 March intensified after the 28 May release of the 911 call made by her boyfriend moments after the shots were fired. The Louisville protests have continued as part of the nationwide reaction to George Floyd’s death and the subsequent police shooting of David McAfee in Louisville during these protests on 01 June. Twelve major cities declared a curfew on the evening of Saturday, 30 May 2020, and as of 02 June, governors in 24 states and Washington, D.C, had called the National Guard, with about seventeen thousand troops activated. From the beginning of the protests to 03 June 2020, about eleven thousand people had been arrested, including all four police officers responsible for the arrest resulting in the death of George Floyd. The mass protests occurred during the global Covid-19 pandemic and health experts as well as political public authorities warned that the protests will likely facilitate an accelerated or rebounding spread of Covid-19 or become a “seeding event” for further coronavirus outbreaks.
History of police brutality in the United States
Frequent cases of police brutality and excessive use of force by the police, particularly against African Americans, in the United States have long led the civil rights movement and various other activists to protest against the lack of police accountability in incidents involving the use of excessive force. The Watts riots in 1965 were a response to police brutality during the civil rights movement. Confrontations with police during the 1965 riots resulted in the deaths of 34 people, most of whom were African-Americans. The 1992 LA riots were a response to the acquittal of the police officers responsible for excessive use of force on Rodney King.
In recent times, these incidents have included:
- the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri;
- the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015; and
- the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York City, who, like George Floyd, said, that he couldn’t breathe in his final moments. Several of these nationally publicized incidents occurred in Minnesota, including,
- the 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis,
- the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile in neighbouring Saint Paul, and
- the 2017 shooting of Justine Damond, also in Minneapolis.
- In March 2020, the Kentucky shooting of Breonna Taylor by police at her own apartment was also widely publicized.
- In 2016, Tony Timpa was killed by Dallas police officers in the same way as George Floyd.
Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Measures taken against the growingCovid-19 pandemic, including closure of non-essential businesses and implementation of a lockdown, had significant economic and social impact on many Americans as millions lost their jobs and were made more economically vulnerable. Keith Ellison, Attorney General of Minnesota, said he was of the opinion that people “have been cooped up for two months, and so now they’re in a different space and a different place. They’re restless. Some of them have been unemployed, some of them don’t have rent money, and they’re angry, they’re frustrated.
George Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, speaking from Faeford, North Carolina, said that the family was traumatised by what happened and that the police officers involved in the case should not only be suspended, only to return to work later, but should be charged with murder. The family’s legal representative, Benjamin Crump, speaking from Tallahassee, Florida, said that had it not been the videos taken by members of the public, the police would have distorted what actually transpired on the day in question and the matter would have been swept under the carpet.
In a strange twist of events, Minneapolis Police Chief, Madaria Arradondo, joined the protestors at the scene of the death of Mr Floyd and said he came to pay his last respects as what happened to Floyd was wrong. Taking his hat off, he apologised to the Floyd family for the death of George Floyd and said that he was terribly sorry.
WHILE the issue of police brutality in the United States is currently in the spotlight, some of the police forces around the world who top the list in terms of their harsh treatment of offenders are, in the following order, Sudan, China, Pakistan, Mexico, Burma, North Korea, Brazil, Afghanistan, Iran, Haiti, Kenya, Russia, Somalia, Egypt, South Africa, Iran and the United States.
WE WILL BE publishing more on this issue in the coming days as it develops further. Please watch this space.