Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose death at Chauvin’s hands incited days of protest in Minneapolis.
A witness took a 10-minute video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the man cried out, telling the officer he could not breathe before he went limp. Officers responded to the scene on a report of forgery, which is not a capital crime.
Rage over Floyd’s death, which occurred the night of Monday, May 25, sparked protest in Minneapolis Tuesday that picked up over the weekend in U.S. metropolises.
Thursday night, protesters set fire to the precinct building where Chauvin worked with the three other officers who stood by him as Floyd died, and to some commercial businesses and one affordable housing project under construction.
All four officers at the scene were fired within days of Floyd’s death. Protests continued unabated. The killings of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was jogging in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, an EMT who died in her bed when police mistakenly invaded the wrong house in Kentucky, were still fresh.
The three Black people, all of whom were conducting peaceful activities at the time of their deaths, exemplified a systemic injustice in the United States where Black Americans are disproportionately killed by arms of the state.
This reality, and white people’s complicity in it, was highlighted by video from Christopher Cooper, a Black man in New York, who recorded a white woman as she called the police on him for asking her to put her dog on a leash in the Bramble, an area of Central Park where dogs must be leashed at all times.
Mayor Jenny Durkan told KUOW’s Bill Radke that she would have pursued charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death. Her comments come as her administration requests a pause from Judge James Robart for monitoring the Seattle Police Department’s consent decree with the federal Department of Justice.
The consent decree followed an investigation opened in 2011 that found issues with SPD’s use of force and indications of racial bias, but no conclusive evidence. According to the Seattle Times, Durkan sent a 27-page memo saying that “[t]he City is unable to fully address the accountability issues in this filing, because it is now confronting an unprecedented public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to The Seattle Times, the memo doesn’t ask to do away with the consent decree, but it could pave the way for future action. The memo was sent last week, around the same time that Seattle experienced two “officer-involved” shootings.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
Read more of the June 3-9, 2020 issue.