By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the police encounter with George Floyd. I have. Watching the video is part of my job. I saw the video. I transcribe what people say.
Like so many, watching the incident hurt. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I’ve learned to suppress whatever I feel and focus on telling the best story. The story with George Floyd was no different.
I watched the video and I didn’t break. Then, late Tuesday night I learned a five-year-old in my family asked, “Why did the cops kill him?”
That is when I wept.
Police told us they responded to a forgery in progress. In a statement, police said he resisted arrest. But the video we saw shot by a bystander in the area shows a man pleading for his life. He says nearly 11 times, “I can’t breathe.”
As Floyd begged for help, he called out “mamma.” She died two years ago.
I was on a zoom call Wednesday organized by Jason Sole — founder of Humanize my Hoodie and Hamline University criminal justice professor. It was a safe space to socially connect when the COVID-19 pandemic keeps us apart. But there is another virus infecting society.
“As black people, we have been under attack. The attack isn’t new,” Sole said. “Nobody who is called to help should come and kill you. What kind of world is that?”
Showing what happened helped propel the civil rights movement of the 60’s.
For example, Emmett Till was 14 when he walked into a grocery store to buy candy.
Till was accused of hitting on a white woman. He was later kidnapped and found dead - unrecognizable - in the Tallahatchie River. Emmet’s mom held an open casket funeral so the world could see what white men did to her son.
That was in 1955.
But the next false accusation against black people I want to share, happened Monday. A white woman in New York’s Central park, Amy Cooper, called police on a black man bird watching. He only asked her to put her dog on its leash.
“I am going to call the police on you and tell them there is an African American man threatening my life,” Amy Cooper says while screaming at Christian Cooper (no relation). She told the 911 operator twice, “He’s African-American.”
What did she hope would happen by calling the police and lying?
Amy Cooper was fired and later apologized.
Earlier this month we learned about the Killing of Ahmaud Arbery - another black man falsely accused as a robbery suspect is dead. He was shot and killed while jogging in his neighborhood. Three white men accused have been arrested.
There is a lot we don’t know about the Floyd case. It has led to outrage and protests across the city of Minneapolis. Maybe Floyd was intoxicated. Maybe he did resist arrest.
But the more I watch the video – and reflect on what happened this week – I ask why and when it will stop. When will the hashtags memorializing lives ended, end? My dad says never unless you eliminate hate.
“How can somebody called to help with a situation show up and kill you. I call you for some help and assistance, you show up and kill somebody,” Sole said. “That makes no sense.”
And, if it doesn’t make sense to adults. Think about the children.
Or the 5-year-old in my family asking, “Why did they kill George Floyd?”