Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Remembering George Floyd


One  year ago today in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020, an ordinary 46-year-old African American man,George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin. even though Floyd was lying face down on the ground and hand-cuffed from behind.
George had bought a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store in South Minneapolis on the evening of 25 May 2020.
A shop assistant believed he had used a counterfeit $20 bill and called the police after Mr Floyd refused to return the cigarettes or pay again.
Officers arrived and handcuffed him but when they tried to put him into the squad car, he resisted. A struggle ended with Mr Floyd face down on the street.
George Floyd's  last moments were caught on video. While being arrested, Floyd was held down by a Minneapolis police officer's knee. The video shows Floyd pleading that he is in pain and can't breathe. Then, his eyes shut and the pleas stop. He was pronounced dead shortly after. Under the circumstances, it was clear that Floyd posed no threat to anyone. When bystanders pleaded on Floyd’s behalf, they were threatened with being pepper-sprayed. Floyd was tortured to death. This was a lynching of a black man, pure and simple. Prosecutors said Chauvin treated Floyd with particular cruelty during the lengthy restraint, saying Chauvin inflicted gratuitous pain and caused psychological distress to Floyd and to bystanders. They also said Chauvin abused his position of authority as a police officer, committed his crime as part of a group of three or more people, and that he pinned Floyd down in the presence of children — including a nine-year-old girl who testified at trial that watching the restraint made her “sad and kind of mad.”
 Expert witnesses on behalf of the state testified that Mr Floyd died from a lack of oxygen due to the manner of restraint employed by Chauvin and his colleagues.
 Chauvin himself chose not to testify, invoking his right to not incriminate himself with his responses.
Jurors took less than a day to reach their unanimous verdict, finding Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. 
 Sentencing will take place in June, and Mr Chauvin could spend decades in jail.His lawyers have requested a new trial, but the motion is not likely to be granted.
Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, who stood near the others, were not initially charged. Lane, 37, Kueng, 26, and Thao, 34, are now charged with aiding and abetting  second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. 
After the verdict, the Floyd family's lawyer, Ben Crump, said the conviction marked a "turning point in history" for the US.
It is rare that police officers in the US are charged, let alone convicted, for use of lethal force.
President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris called the Floyd family after the verdict. Mr Biden was heard saying that "at least now there is some justice".
In nationally televised remarks shortly afterwards, Mr Biden said: "Systemic racism is a stain on the whole nation's soul."
 However, despite the victory of a conviction, there was disturbing evidence in the background signaling that the struggle against racial oppression has a long way to go. Amid the trial and announcement of the guilty verdict, the Biden White House decided to drop the campaign promise to establish a national commission on law enforcement violence.
The way in which Mr. Floyd was killed revealed once again how systemic racism and anti-Blackness reinforce an unjust legacy of oppression that too often results in the death of Black people. Mr. Floyd’s passing, however, further ignited the growing need to address institutionalized bias and racially-motivated hate in all of its forms.
Floyd played basketball and American football in high school and won a scholarship to attend a community college, now known as South Florida State College. He left after two years and attended Texas A&M University in Kingsville, but left without graduating to return to Houston. He was arrested on drug and theft charges several times between 1997 and 2005, the Associated Press reported. In 2007, he was charged with armed robbery, pleaded guilty two years later and was sentenced to five years in prison. When he was released, he became involved with Resurrection Houston, a new church setting up in his old neighbourhood. He introduced the pastor to residents, who told Houston television station KHOU that “much of my ministry I was able to do at Cuney Homes was because of George Floyd”. But Floyd left for Minneapolis in 2014 in search of work to help support his daughter, born a year earlier, and a fresh start. He worked as a security guard at the Salvation Army, where a co-worker, Michelle Seals, recalled him as sweet-natured. He later drove trucks and was a bouncer at Conga Latin Bistro, but he lost his job when Covid-19 shut down bars and restaurants. Mary Ginns, a friend from high school, told NPR last year that Floyd once said to her that he was “going to change the world”. “We were like, ‘We know you are,’” she said. “You’re going to be in the NBA . . . But God put something in him to see it a different way. He probably didn’t know at the time what he was saying, but that is exactly what he did. He has changed this world.
His  death sparked sparked a justified, constructive anger at racial injustice, police brutality,  that is still felt around the world. The call for police reform has become louder, the work to address the inequity of health outcomes more urgent, and the intersections of racism and other forms of injustice more obvious than ever. George Floyd's brutal murder by a Minneapolis police officer also led to a global wave of demonstrations and the resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  
Since the inception of the BLM banner, it has become a life-affirming cry against racial oppression.This historic movement has changed the public debate on racism and police violence, but a massive backlash is underway, led by governments cracking down on dissent and police forces stepping up the harassment of black people.Yet despite government opposition, Black Lives Matter retains a broad appeal in the UK. By October last year, over half of the British public continued to support Black Lives Matter, with that number rising to seven in 10 for young people.
Recently, demonstrators have taken to the streets again to protest against the killings of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant — three names out of dozens of people killed by the police across the country during the three weeks of testimony. 
 A rally in Minneapolis was held on May 23rd 2021 to remember Floyd. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where Chauvin’s trial was held, including members of George Floyd’s family and others who lost loved ones to Police encounters.
 Many marchers carried signs, banners and pictures of Floyd, along with other men killed at the hands of the authorities.  
Floyd is remembered as a father of five. His youngest daughter Giana alongside her mother Roxie Washington ,spoke in June 2020 after the incident. Giana said “that she missed him”, describing her father as a fun man who often played with her.
 The Minneapolis rally was organised by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation and is one of several events set to go ahead across the USA in the coming week to honour his memory.
Among them will be an event held in Minneapolis which the foundation described as a “celebration of life.” 
Organizers said: “We will celebrate the life and legacy of George Floyd through Black culture, art, history and support of local businesses,” adding that there will be performances from a number of local and “Grammy award-winning artists”.
 As we mark a year since the murder of George Floyd, it is vital that we step up the movement for justice, against racism and police violence.As we remember, reflect, and respond in our own way to the senseless and brutal murder of George Floyd we must do battle with the past, take courage from the present and work to create a shared future that is just and allows individuals to flourish. 
The future can be so much brighter for all if the global insurrection, solidarity, sympathy, and decency against racial and other forms of injustice that George Floyd's death inspired continues to burn in our hearts and minds. And this is not because Mr George Floyd was a paragon of virtue, but rather because he was a man who was extrajudicially murdered because he was Black. That is the scandal; that reality, that truth, should trouble our conscience wherever we might live.
And if President Biden is right when he stated, after the court returned a 'Guilty' verdict against Derek Chauvin on 20 April, that George Floyd's murder 'in the full light of day' lifted the 'blinkers off the whole world' to see America's treatment of one of it citizens, then there is clearly urgent work that needs to done in society. 'I can't breathe.' 'We cannot', said President Biden, 'allow these words to die with him.'
 Floyd is recognised as a symbol, remembering his humanity is important, this, in part, is the significance of the request to  say his name. To speak about his humanity, to remind ourselves that he is more than what happened to him. Thank you Mr George Floyd for giving all of us another 'chance to change', to treat each other with dignity and respect, to pursue righteousness and justice.
 Anti-racists will  mobilise today to say no to institutional racism in Britain and globally. I encourage all of us today to  make time in the busy day and take the knee and observe 9 minutes and 29 seconds of silence, the length of time Mr. Floyd suffered under Derek Chauvin’s knee, to reflect on the changes that have followed his passing and the work that remains. Individually, we have to play our part in uprooting all forms of racism, oppression and exploitation once and for all, acting collectively as vehicles for real social change.

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