“Being black in America should not be a death sentence, “Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wrote on Facebook.
“Say his name.” “I can’t breathe.” “Black Lives Matter” were some of what was shouted by protesters wondering what it takes for charges to be filed against the four police officers who killed an unarmed, handcuffed black man. Another black life lost on Livestream at the hands of law enforcement.
As I was finishing up the first draft of my book, perhaps one of the most egregious examples of how little Black Lives are not valued, took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 25, 2020. While the actions that took place that day, did not surprise me, I found myself outraged seeing another Black life lost on Livestream.
As if I needed another death to make my case, the summary execution of George Floyd is the greatest example of the deadly consequences of being black in America. What transpired the following days were years of built up anger and sadness from a community who lost all hope in the system to do the right thing.
From NYC to Los Angeles, Memphis, Chicago, Albuquerque, Columbus, Ohio, St. Paul and Minneapolis, protesters were expressing their frustrations and making their voices heard nationwide. There was something different this time, something more purposeful. Protestors set a police station on fire after clashing with officers outside as demonstrations escalated for a third night after Mr. Floyd’s death. Rallies were also held around the country.
Protesters broke windows and charged over fences to breach a police precinct in Minneapolis and set it on fire late Thursday as officers retreated from violent confrontations that boiled over days after George Floyd died in police custody.
A demonstration near the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct grew more intense in the hours after prosecutors said they had not decided whether to charge an officer who had pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes. Some people tossed fireworks and other items toward officers, while the police fired projectiles back.
Police officers retreated from the Third Precinct in vehicles just after 10 p.m. local time, and protesters broke into the building, where they smashed equipment, lit fires and set off fireworks, according to videos posted from the scene.
This is what it looks like when justice has been denied for a long time.
Fifty plus years ago, on Tuesday, March 10, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his “The Other America” speech to supporters participating in a celebratory “Salute to Freedom,” organized by the Local 1199 in New York City. The Local 1199 was a union consisting largely of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and other people of color. In his speech, Dr. King made a call to action to mobilize a multiracial movement of America’s poor. New York City was one of many stops in his travels across the country to seek possible allies for his Poor People’s Campaign.
“…the riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America’s failed to hear? It’s failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of justice and freedom have not been met. It has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, humanity, and equality, and it is still true. It is still true that these things are being ignored,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr shared.
Those were the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in March 1968, weeks before he was assassinated. In 2014 parts of Ferguson was burning after a night of protests following the grand jury’s decision not to indict 28-year-old White Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr., an unarmed Black Teenager in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St, Louis on August 9, 2014. At least a dozen shops in the Ferguson area have been broken into and burned. A number of businesses burned for hours before firefighters arrived.
The Ferguson Unrest (sometimes called the Ferguson Uprising, Ferguson Protests, or Ferguson Riots) involved a series of peaceful and violent protests and riots that began the day after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. But there was hope when you heard Eric Holder, the US Attorney General was coming to town, there was almost a time out, until he concluded, “Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.”
The difference here is the Attorney General is William Barr, a puppet for the president and the president is Trump, not Obama. Trump’s presidential statement via twitter was ‘When the looting start, the shooting starts.” The people are not waiting and/or taking any excuses this time.
It took three days before I was able to write about the killing of George Floyd. I actually turned the tv off all day yesterday, I didn’t want to see or hear anything about it. Like everyone else, I had to navigate through a plethora of emotions to even write this. It was surreal, but one thing this proved to me was the need for the book I am working on, the need for me to complete it for the world to read. I had planned for the book to be out by now, but I guess, it was meant for me to capture this in the pages of the book. But I write this editorial because I feel it could not wait for the release of the book, its time for some real talk now!
The crowd went on to take over the police station the officers worked, Thursday, May 28th at about 9:15AM, and set it on fire along with several other nearby businesses after US attorneys announced they didn’t have enough evidence to charge the officers yet. Although these criminal cops were immediately fired, they have not yet been arrested. The police officer who killed Tamir Rice was fired and ended up getting hired somewhere else, so the firing of the police alone is not acceptable, protesters were demanding arrest Thursday, May 28th, and promising not to let up until there were. The nation is watching the situation unfold while I write these very words. Toss in the fact that two more videos surfaced showing two more officers with their weight on Floyd’s back and legs and you have the culmination of frustration.
There was no let the system take care of it, this time. The reason people of color have a believe that the system does not work is because time and time again the system has failed to hold police accountable, there is a justified anger. Their anger is not only directed at the police but a need for accountability, a need for these officers especially the one with his knee of Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes. This was reminiscent to Eric Garner where some of his last words were also, ‘I can’t breathe.’
The involvement of the federal government riding in on a white horse are no longer acceptable. People are tired and not accepting the feds being there to slow down the investigation and that is why there was anger in the street.
One person described the press conference that was delayed for two hours, ‘similar to a Seinfeld episode, it was a press conference about nothing.’
“We thought we would have another development, but we don’t…” Erica McDonald, a former District Court Judge who currently serves as the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota said. The press conference concluded without any development leaving the family disgusted after watching according to the Benjamin Crump attorney for the family.
The National Black Police Association (NBPA) released a statement demanding true justice in the case of George Floyd on Wednesday, May 28th. The NBPA calls on police chiefs and executives, and their partners in social justice and criminal justice reform to take heed and appropriate action now!
“Our power is in our collective missions. This is not a time to remain silent, nor is it a time to just give polite platitudes and statements that we are watching or continue to repeat that officers must be held accountable. We already know that. What are we going to do about law enforcement abuses and continued trauma? What will we do to ensure complete and true justice in this and every other case that we “monitor?” Our communities are calling on us, and the NBPA is calling on you, like us, to step up your game.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo fired four officers within 24 hours, and the heads of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association – both of whom usually remain silent in these cases – promptly issued statements of support for that move and denounced the prolonged suffocation of Floyd captured on cellphone video and soon streamed around the world.
“The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing and should be of concern to all Americans,” said the Major Cities Chiefs, headed by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “The officers’ actions are inconsistent with the training and protocols of our profession and MCCA commends Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for his swift and decisive action to terminate the employment of the officers involved.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has declared a state of emergency Thursday as protests raged and a police station burned in the tension-filled. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called out the National Guard to try to prevent a third straight night of violence. Five hundred soldiers have been “activated,” the National Guard said late Thursday and were said to be deployed to Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding communities.
Floyd’s death comes after the summary execution of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down and fatally shot by former Glynn County Police in Georgia who wasn’t charged until two months later only after a video became public and went viral. This is just 14 min (5.6 mi) away from where Philando Castile on July 6, 2016, was pulled over while driving in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a Latino 29-year-old St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer
The reality was there was no presence of law enforcement Thursday. They were not in control of the city. The police evacuated the 3rd Precinct, firefighters were visibly absent as South Minneapolis burns because firefighters can not get to the fires. Protestors promise not to give up until the officers are arrested.
The protesters are looking for something that looks like justice and they are not finding it yet again. No matter how much evidence the three videotapes reveal, the argument usually is don’t believe your lying eyes. The protestors, as well as the whole world that is watching, know what they saw. An unarmed and handcuffed George Floyd was begging for his life and narrating his death while three officers subdue him with a knee on his neck for a prolonged time, and tow other officers on his back and legs,
What happens Friday on day four and going forth is uncertain but it’s clearly not even a pandemic and social distancing are going to prevent an escalation from both sides, the protesters quest for justice and the police and national guard who will be tasked to regain control of the city. For both sides, this is a bridge too far. One thing I do know we will remember this day for years to come.
What we have here is the result of America’s failure to hear the cry for justice from Blacks killed at the hands of law enforcement. Each killing is an open wound, a paper cut on the Black Community that never heals. Every mother or father, sibling, or in the case of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr, child of a victim of police criminality, has that cut re-open with every other case. The Black Community has that cut re-opened with every case, so it never has a chance to heal. Until what was once a paper cut that wouldn’t heal is now a major gash that now needs stitches to close, so it can possibly begin heal.
While I do not promote, advocate, or encourage looting and rioting and burning the city down, I do understand. Bandaids on bullet wounds, speeches of body cams, and training will no longer pacify a people who have suffered from systematic racism since the days of Crispus Attucks and that’s Real Talk.