DISCLAIMER: This article represents no political affiliations and does not serve to bring down any political opinions. This is an expressive piece strictly regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, and does not establish Zenerations as a partisan organization.
George Floyd was murdered on May 25th, 2020 by a police officer because he was black. Say his name and remember it. He was George Floyd, and he couldn’t breathe.
The murder has sparked national protests, rightfully demanding justice for Floyd and the imprisonment of the murderer and the three accessories to the crime. These protests have sparked numerous controversies, one being whether the riots and violence on behalf of protesters are justified. The answer is undoubtedly yes.
It seems as though in the wake of the riots, people are more concerned with property and corporations than the numerous black lives that are lost daily to murderers disguised as law enforcement. It immediately becomes necessary to pause and consider why riots are breaking out in the first place, and that is where the popular phrase “no justice, no peace” comes into play.
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. This display of peaceful protest created a national uproar, and Kaepernick’s efforts were criticised rather than heard. Peaceful protest was attempted then, it failed then, it was attempted now, and it failed now. Protesters need an outlet to grieve and make their voices heard, and setting the country ablaze certainly seems like one of the ways to do it when all other methods are silenced. It is not just senseless violence, it is effective and it will continue until true justice is reached.
The video of the public lynching of Floyd shows him struggling to breathe while a white police officer kneels on his neck. He was not resisting arrest, he was unarmed, but he was still murdered by Derek Chauvin, and three of his fellow officers were complicit in standing by and watching. His alleged crime was using a counterfeit $20 bill, which in no way, shape, or form warrants any sort of violence or police brutality. If you consider the fact that if a white man in Floyd’s situation would not have been killed, it becomes clearer that this was racially motivated. It would certainly not be the first time something of this nature has happened in the U.S.
The Minneapolis Police Department seemed content in being complicit with this murder as well. On May 27th, Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Keung were fired from their positions, no doubt because of public pressure. Doing nothing more than firing a murderer and his accessories is an act that completely disregards what law enforcement is supposed to seek: justice. In this case, nothing less than a life sentence is justice.
The complete lack of action proved to be a call to it. Protests started that very night, chants of “I can’t breathe” ringing outside of Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. With the firing of rubber bullets, flash-bang devices, and tear gas, the cycle of police brutality was perpetuated and the protesters had no choice but to escalate the protests until they made sure their voices were heard. The Third Precinct was set on fire on the evening on May 28th, an uprising against the tyranny and injustice so many in this country face. Arson and violence are not actions that should by any means be condoned, but perhaps they would be less necessary if the people with the utmost power in this country stopped to actually listen.
As a result of the nationwide protests and petitions, Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder. This decrees that Floyd’s murder is manslaughter and an accident, and it is a completely inaccurate ruling. In the video, viewers can clearly see Floyd struggling, and eventually stop moving all together. Keeping your knee on the throat of someone who is already in handcuffs, already on the brink of unconsciousness, is not an accident. This alone should call for at least a second-degree murder charge, which is a murder that is not premeditated but intentional in the moment. When Chauvin’s history is taken into account, it is not outrageous to want to demand he get a first-degree murder charge. He has been the subject of at least twelve conduct complaints since his joining at the Minneapolis Police Academy in 2001, and none of them having received reprimands.
Throughout his career, he has shot Native American man Leroy Martinez, unarmed black man Ira Latrell Toles, and aided in the fatal shooting of Wayne Reyes. He has targeted people of color before, and was enabled by the police force to do so for nineteen years before he was terminated. Chauvin’s past and negligence at the scene of Floyd’s murder raise the question on whether the murder was premeditated, leading Twitter users to rightfully share the hashtag “raise the degree” in order to gain justice for Floyd to its fullest extent.
Despite all of this, the public has been quick to criticize protesters, the nation’s very own president being the main perpetrator. In a tweet regarding the Minneapolis protests, President Trump writes, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Not only is this a blatant allusion to violence towards the American people, the very people the President should aim to serve and protect, it completely discredits the anger that people everywhere are feeling in the face of injustice. The protestors are not thugs, they are human beings who are tired of not being treated like it. His words prove that he cares more about property than human lives that are taken each and every day, and he fails to recognize how materials are replaceable, buildings can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be given back to those murdered.
If you take this with the fact that CNN news reporter Omar Jimenez, who is black and hispanic, was arrested for reporting on the scene of the Minneapolis demonstrations, you get a clear example of white privilege. Yes, arresting reporters of color who are exercising their right to freedom of press while neglecting to hold the President accountable for allusions to violence shows the dangerous amount of white privilege throughout the country. Questions have to be asked, and everything that led to the current state of the nation needs to be considered. Why did Chauvin believe it was right to kneel on a man’s neck and was so willing to have it caught on camera, and why did his fellow officers let him do it? It all circles back to white privilege, and no justice, no peace comes into play once again.
Systematic racism is not a partisan issue. People can have different political views and opinions, but racism does not fall under this category. Holding people who are undeniably racist accountable for their words and actions in trying times like these is not an imposition on their partisanship, it is a calling out of their beliefs that are built on the oppression of others. These protests serve a real purpose. Say their names: Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna, Walter Scott, Bettie Jones, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Eric Reason, Dominique Clayton, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the countless other innocent lives that have been taken. Remember them, fight for them, and acknowledge that these national uproars serve a purpose for them too.
Those who cannot protest do not have to be complaisant. Social media, petitions, donations, etc. are important ways for communities to stay aware and reject systematic racism and police brutality. Visit the links below to see how you can help: