On May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a man named George Floyd was killed during the course of an arrest. The death was tied to a police officer kneeling on George’s neck for nearly nine minuets, preventing his ability to breath. After the video of George Floyd’s death was put online there was a strong backlash against the obvious violation of rights. Aside from the previous events that had occurred in the arrest an easy solution would be to place him in a police car or have him sit down. Regardless of any problems that may have occurred, putting a knee on someone’s neck is unacceptable in terms of police conduct. During the final moments George was still talking and said several things, one of which became famous, “I can’t breathe”. The first instance these words caught on were during the arrest of Eric Garner in 2014 which became popular in protests. In this case, it only enforces the problems which have yet to be addressed.
After public anger had exploded protests began the next day demanding action be taken. By May 27 rioting was starting as stores and buildings were looted, vandalized and set on fire. The culmination was the burning of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct building, a rare occurrence of American rioting which has destroyed a police station. This is not good. I unequivocally condemn these riots insofar as we speak of people committing violent acts, not simple protesting. It helps no one, it causes damage and pain, it puts people’s lives in danger and it will not help in gaining any form of justice or change. Moving on we will now look at what happened to the police. The police officer who had his knee on George’s neck was Derek Chauvin however no other officer stopped him. This led to all 4 officers being fired on May 26 and later Derek Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter. Around this time, President Trump remarked on the unfortunate incident:
Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota appointed the Attorney General of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, on May 31 to help Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, in the case. This came after the family of George asked the Minneapolis City Council to have Ellison assist which they agreed to and forwarded to the Governor. The three other officers involved with the arrest and death of George Floyd were arrested June 3 and charged with aiding and abetting murder while the charge against Derek Chauvin was upgraded to 2nd degree murder. This did not stop the protests which continued on. The reasoning for the protests had been this case yet there were so many compounding factors associated with this specific time period in the United States.
The COVID-19 Pandemic had seen the majority of the population quarantined save essential workers and businesses in addition to implementing social distancing policies, wearing masks and maintaining hygiene. Some people accepted this however many expressed frustration with being kept inside in addition to the problems of never leaving home leading to armed and unarmed protesters either demonstrating outside or storming the inside of state capitol buildings. This was because the governor of each state was responsible for determining the quarantine policies of their state and thus those who were more restrictive received more outrage. These protests tended to be more conservative in nature with plenty of Trump flags, guns and occasional Confederate flags seen along with a general lapse in quarantine procedures. The protests for George Floyd had similar lapses however more people tended to use masks from what I have seen personally. Nonetheless, the concern for the spread of the virus is very present. The problem with the quarantine was the lack of employment which meant that lower and middle class famalies suffered from losing money, losing healthcare, facing eviction and suffering the conditions of a global recession caused by quarantine measures. During the beginning of the protests states in the US were also beginning to reopen and allow people back outside as well which could energize a population which had been cooped up at home for so long. Another issue was two other black people who gained noticeable traction around these protests for the ambiguity under which they died. They are Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor who people have constantly demanded be brought justice for perceived wrongful deaths.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. There were two main problems with his death aside from the vague reasons for it. He was killed by several men (not the police) after they chased him down with guns in their trucks, killed him in a confrontation and then claimed they were exercising self-defense during a citizen’s arrest. Aside from this blatant vigilantism another issue was government action or lack thereof. Multiple prosecutors passed on the case and it took over two months until the video of the assault was leaked which caused a grand jury to be convened along with the cooperation of Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia. Several arrests were finally made and charges were filed against those involved. It has been compared to a modern day lynching. The murder of Breonna Taylor was even more shocking. Police in Louisville, Kentucky were searching for suspects (who were already in custody) who were suspected of drug distribution and came to Breonna’s residence because they had reports of her car at the house of the suspects as well as a previous relationship with one of them. Unfortunately, the warrant the police had was a no-knock warrant, meaning the police could break the door and enter without announcing who they were. They broke the door after midnight and her boyfriend, Kenneth, Walker, assuming they were criminals, took his gun and started shooting which caused the police to begin shooting. In the aftermath Breonna died and Walker was arrested on March 13, 2020. Police were not required to wear body cameras so there is also no proof as to what happened. The issues from both of these cases helped to fuel the perception of police abuse of authority and racism in America.
As the protests spread worldwide there were a series of reactions from a diverse group of people from governments, police, protesters, organizations, activists and businesses to the President of the United States (of course). A flurry of videos purporting to show instances of police brutality helped to fuel the protests about police brutality; a very natural cycle of outrage to protest to violence to outrage. Examples of the behavior considered excessive included: beatings, rubber bullets, bean bags, stun grenades, tear gas, a horse trampling a person, police cruisers running through protesters, arrests made without merit and the attacks and arrests of journalists. In the midst of the reactions a prominent one was in Minneapolis. On June 7, 2020 the City Council voted 9-3 (of 13 members) to abolish their police department. They didn’t have many details but said it would be a long, gradual process involving public safety officers. Here is another interesting fact; Jeremiah Ellison, son of AG Keith Ellison, is on the Minneapolis City Council and tweeted earlier about having agreed to disband the police. People started observing the aftermath of the riots caused by George’s death around this time in Minneapolis and photographs are available:
Rebecca Viagran, a councilwoman in San Antonio has also been inspired by the Minneapolis City Council decision to research her own proposal.
Here I’ve also included the videos from George’s brother Philonise and his friend Raheem:
Philonise Floyd, brother to George Floyd, speaks at Congress and later at the UN.
Raheem Smith on George’s life
Defund The Police
In the national dialogue, multiple ideas have become louder than they were in the past and many Americans are hearing it for the first time, for better or worse. Here I will describe several although only briefly. The main one I think most people have heard is Defund the Police. This is a broad topic which includes different ideas. You could take money from the police and give it to social services to address the root causes of crime. Other ideas include preventing police from purchasing military surplus equipment, focusing on public safety and social services workers as replacements or outright police abolition which segues nicely into the Abolish the Police movement. This idea centers on police brutality, over policing and racism which proponents feel has corrupted the police rendering it ineligible for reform and antique as an institution. The difficult part of this idea is finding a suitable replacement which does exist in some circumstances and is nonexistent in others.
Think about the purpose of policing. It is meant to be used as a force against crime, to prevent and end any violence, stop other crimes from being committed and identifying if a crime was committed. If a person struggles with mental health or suicide, why would they come? There is no crime and they’re not qualified psychologists or therapists. It’s really a failing of the government to adjust itself to evolving medical information or find new solutions. The police are not meant or designed for this purpose and yet they have to deal with it. They aren’t fixing the homeless population and overdoses increase with the opioid epidemic, despite drugs being illegal and prisons containing a sizable population of inmates with drug convictions. Thus, there needs to be innovative approaches to deal with these issues outside of our current system. On the other hand, crimes like robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder and assault can’t be fixed as easily and thus abolishing the police leaves a giant gap in public safety against violent threats.
The police, obviously, do not support the defunding or dismantling of their organization. Responses from them have been varied from commitments to reform, rejection of brutality claims, offers of open dialogue to frankly disturbing acts of violence. Mayors and lawmakers have employed different strategies to calm protesters including banning chokeholds, diversity and de-escalation training, banning rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades, among other forms of non to semi-lethal weaponry. These are good solutions in a microcosm but have yet to quell the protests. Another issue has been the idea that there are good cops and just a few bad cops. However, in the words of Chris Rock, we wouldn’t accept a few bad pilots who liked crashing airplanes. When bad cops are acting in negligent or criminal ways they are not really signaled out by police departments nor are the other police officers in the videos stopping their actions. This contributes to a negative public perception of them resulting in the ACAB phrase. The job certainly is stressful and many officers are on edge however any violence should be reserved for serious offenders or rioters, not people holding signs on the street. If they are not stopped, we go straight back to protesting.
The following events are listed here due to their ability to cause new bouts of protesting and rioting which could inflame tensions in the country further.
Just as further police brutality fuels more protests, other cases of violence can further fuel these protests. One example was the shooting of Rayshard Brooks ,which led to an Atlanta Wendy’s being burned to the ground. Unlike the case with George Floyd, Brooks resisted arrest by fighting and attempted to run away. The problem occurred when Police Officer Garrett Rolfe shot him in the back as he ran away, which people have argued was unnecessary and amounts to a murder. This case is very difficult and will no doubt be an invective of a debate. After the rioting the officer responsible for the shooting was fired and the police chief of Atlanta, Erika Shields, resigned. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced felony murder charges against Officer Rolfe several days later.
Deaths by Hanging
In California, there was a death classified as a suicide which drew outrage from the public. This was because a young, black man, Robert Fuller, was found hung from a tree in Palmdale, CA and the police did not investigate the incident thoroughly. People saw it as suspicious because of the long history of lynching’s in the United States of black man in the exact same style. A crowd gathered at the police station demanding the police investigate the incident however they have reported that two autopsies indicate a suicide. Days later, another black man, Malcom Harsch, was found hanging in Victorville, CA however the mode of death is unknown. At this point the FBI, Department of Justice and U.S Attorney’s office became involved to investigate the deaths further. Both died in California, 50 miles and 10 days apart from each other. Whatever happens in this case may become irrelevant because public support is behind the idea of foul play which could spur more public protests. In another bizarre turn, the half-brother of Robert Fuller, Terron Jammal Boone, was shot by LA County deputies in Kern County. This happened after the deputies said they were shot at during a traffic stop. They had suspected Boone of being involved in a kidnapping/domestic assault. Another incident occurred in Oakland, CA when nooses were found to be hanging from trees, however residents claimed that they were being used for exercise.
During the protests there have been a number of instances of police officers still kneeling on people’s neck, not having learned this lesson. I have yet to see a case where it triggered more extreme rioting but the potential for it to inflame tensions is very strong as it is now symbolic of police brutality. The incidents below include an officer in Sarasota, Florida, other countries and a New Jersey Corrections Officer pretending to kneel on someone’s neck to mock George Floyd’s death with Trump 2020, All Lives Matter and Thin Blue Line flags in the background. The prison guard was later suspended. Using kneeling to insult BLM supporters is almost ironic as the symbolic gesture of taking a knee was led by Colin Kaepernick, a former football player who used it to express solidarity with the BLM movement years ago. In time it may symbolically evolve into a form of disrespect to BLM and black people in general while it also used to express solidarity with them.
Photo of police kneeling on people’s necks in other countries
The sheer amount of videos and photos from the protests and the reactions to it circulating now is substantial and instead of explaining each of them individually there will be a large list of these organized into categories below:
Cases of Police Brutality
Cases of Police Solidarity with Protestors
Accounts of Police Attacking Protesters after Supporting Them
Police Violence against Journalists & Arrests
Fallen/Injured Police Officers
Murders/Violence Linked to Protests
Reactions to the Protests
There was also this
Prayer Space for Muslims Protesters
Small town Texas protests
Senator Mitt Romney marches in protest, says BLM
In Harrisburg, PA Governor Tim Wolf marched with protestors
In a reversal, there was a KKK protest Rome, Georgia
Example of Anti-Quarantine Protestors for reference (notice the lack of masks and police conduct)
Cases of Police Brutality
Two police officers in Buffalo, NY push a man, 75 year old Martin Gugino, down who starts to bleed out of his ear. They later claim a protester tripped and fell, which is a blatant lie. The two officers in front who shoved him were suspended which led to 57 officers on the Emergency Response Team to resign however other officers challenged this and said it was because their union would not give them legal aid. The suspended officers were later charged with felony assault and as they left the court for their hearing they were applauded. Earlier, one of the officers had knelt in solidarity with protesters, causing people to doubt the honesty of police as a whole. Mr. Gugino currently has a fractured skull and cannot walk. This situation was made worse by President Trump commenting that the man who was pushed was an ANTIFA provocateur and was trying to scan police equipment. This is highly inappropriate for the President and is believed to be a conspiracy spread by OANN.
This is probably one of the best known cases of excessive force by police in recent times and highlights the issue of good cops and bad cops. After the police push him back and he falls down, no one checks him or helps him. They call an EMS and just start walking. Just like that, 1 or 2 bad cops becomes 50-100 and they lose support.
This is a long list of cases of alleged police brutality with about 500 documented incidents
A police car was stopped by protesters who threw things at the car. Another police cruiser arrived and drove through the protesters prompting the other to do the same:
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Response:
An elderly man was pushed down by police
Police shooting at people inside of their homes
Police randomly shooting a protester
A police officer attacks a woman on the ground, 2nd officer reprimands him immediately
NY State Senator Zellnor Myrie pepper sprayed
People run as police nearly hit them with their cars
Police shooting rubber bullets at people on sidewalk from police cruiser
Man yells at police shooting rubber bullets at his car with his pregnant wife, police concentrate fire on his car
Police use tear gas and flash bangs at peaceful protesters
Police slash car tires (not military, the police just look like them)
A homeless, handicapped man was hit by a rubber bullet from police
I wouldn’t call this police brutality but…. it’s something?
This photo is distinctive
These cases are questionable behavior but not brutality
Police arrest people trying to get police to help them stop looters
Cases of Police Solidarity with Protesters
Scottsdale Police Chief
National Guard members dancing to the Macarena in Atlanta
Police officer tells black girl she can protest and he won’t hurt her
I’d like to be out there with you
Accounts of Police Attacking Protestors after Supporting Them
Personal accounts of police kneeling and then later attacking protesters (these are hard to validate, they are just anecdotal)
Police knee in support of protesters, fire at them when they are close enough
Backlash for Police Expressing Solidarity
NYPD Lieutenant apologizes for kneeling with protesters
10 members of the SWAT team in Hallandale Beach, Florida resign after Police Chief kneels with protesters
Police Violence against Journalists & Arrests
The famous arrest was of CNN journalist Omar Jimenez who had done nothing but was still arrested and then later released with no charges
Keith Boykin, CNN commentator, arrested
Huffpost Reporter identifies himself to police, they ignore and arrest him
MSNBC Reporters attacked
Independent Journalist shot in the eye
Linda Tirado was also hit in the face
Journalists for a student paper in Columbus, OH were pepper-sprayed despite identifying themselves as journalists
Police officer runs at and hits BBC cameraman
Ali Velshi, MSNBC host, was hit with rubber bullets multiple times
Fallen/Injured Police Officers
2 Federal Protective Services officers were shot and one died in Oakland, CA. It was later revealed a far-right member of the boogaloo movement, which advocates for a race war, Steven Carrillo, carried out the shooting with an accomplice. He is an active duty sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. When officers came to his house he shot at them and allegedly threw bombs at them, injuring one and killing another.
David Dorn, a retired St. Louis police officer and police chief of Moline Acres, Missouri, was killed while attempting to protect a pawn shop from looting after a day of rioting in nearby St. Louis.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/retired-police-captain-shot-to-death-at-st-louis-pawn-shop-in-slaying-caught-on/article_d482138c-0224-5393-bd87-9898bebb3fd1.html
Comments by President Trump
Numerous injuries to police officers
A police officer in Philadelphia was hit by a car and suffered injuries
SUV tries to hit police
Multiple destroyed police cars
Police car on fire
Murders/Violence Linked to Protests
KKK leader attacks protestors
In Cicero, IL a group of rioters shot randomly into a crowd, killing two people. Police later arrested those they believe responsible and stated they were agitators unaffiliated with the protests
In Visalia, CA a blue Jeep with a Keep America Great flag hit two protestors who had walked in front of them
The Fresno Bee: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article243128101.html
David McAtee, a local BBQ restaurant owner, was shot by police at a local gathering place
Man attacks protesters with a dual-bladed weapon
Reactions to the Protests
At the national level there are a variety of bills being proposed. President Trump has signed an executive order on holding police accountable, focusing on community policing, limiting deadly force, prioritize using social workers and mental health professionals for impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction, establishing a database of officers using deadly force and leaning heavily into advisory bodies which can recommend changes and advise on policy. An issue with this is that these actions are under the purview of the Attorney General who is seen as very loyal to Trump and thus the way the reforms are carried out will be important.
The two primary bills being proposed by the Democrats are:
Justice in Policing Act of 2020 – a Democrat bill which seeks to allow independent bodies to investigate misconduct, mandate body cameras, prohibit no-knock warrants, ban chokeholds, require de-escalation and a number of other provisions.
Ending Qualified Immunity Act Bill – made by Ayanna Pressley and Justin Amash which would end qualified immunity, a legal protection people have accused police of using to allow them to use violence excessively.
House Committee on the Judiciary: https://judiciary.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=3005
NY lawmakers pass bill to release secret discipline records of police
DC Council bans neck restraints, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun grenades
Colorado Senate passed a police accountability law
Berkeley City Council votes to prohibit tear gas
Phoenix City Council votes to install civilian oversight of police
The Philadelphia City Council approved a budget reducing the Philadelphia Police Department budget by $33 million. New policies for police included body cameras for police officers, implicit bias training for police and an equity manager for the department.
Minneapolis Police Department bans chokeholds
NY State Assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act
Section 50-A repealed
Federal Court issued restraining order to Denver Police for using chemicals and projectiles
Iowa Governor signs bill restricting chokeholds and stopping the rehiring of fired police officers, mandates anti-training and deescalation. The bill had full bipartisan, no votes against.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced that social workers would have a, “…cabinet-level department that would respond to calls on inebriation, homelessness, addiction and mental health.”
Marines ban confederate flag
Navy to ban Confederate flags
Microsoft to stop selling facial recognition to police
IBM to stop selling facial recognition to police
Amazon bans facial recognition software sales to police for 1 year
NASCAR supports protests
NASCAR bans confederate flag
Back the Blue car
Police Covering Badge Numbers
Atlanta police officers resigning
7 Minneapolis officers quit
NBC News 4 WSMV: https://www.wsmv.com/news/us_world_news/7-minneapolis-officers-quit-in-wake-of-protests-citing-lack-of-support-from-city-leaders/article_d0a99e46-24c3-5881-82c7-4d4defbbe2bd.html?utm_campaign=snd-autopilot
Washington D.C. police officers feel abandoned
A common theme in some of the protests has been vandalizing, damaging and pulling statues down. Here are some below (there are dozens of incidents like this taking place).
Columbus statue torn down in Richmond
Christopher Colombus statue in Boston decapitated
This happened to the statue of Columbus in Minneapolis
Jefferson Davis Statue torn down
At Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon the statue of Thomas Jefferson was torn down
Howitzer Monument torn down
Louisville removed John Castleman Statue
Edward Colston Statue Destruction in Bristol, UK. This shows how the movement has gone international and how events in the United States affect people internationally.
Gen. Wickham Statue torn down in Richmond
In Philadelphia, locals are protecting the Columbus statue (some with guns and bats) with constant tensions. There also seems to be plenty of assaults taking place.
The Philadelphia police captain in the video was later reassigned
In Albuquerque, New Mexico protesters were demonstrating at the statue of Juan de Oñate, a conquistador, when a shooting occurred. An investigation is ongoing as four people were shot however the circumstances are difficult to piece together. The New Mexico Civil Guard, a right wing militia group, was also present and armed. They were arrested but it is unclear if they had anything to do with the shooting and it may have been just a safety precaution. In the video, the man in the blue shirt was the shooter and from the footage it appears that he was agitated, threw a woman to the ground, allegedly pointed his gun at protesters and when they attempted to disarm him he began firing at them with his gun. The shooter, Steven Ray Baca, was charged with aggravated assault and use of firearm in a felony however they were later dropped for unlawful carrying of a dangerous weapon. Separate from this are three counts of battery against female protesters, one clearly recorded. The statue was later taken down.
This is the video and it is disturbing:
Another phenomenon was the painting of large letters on streets with slogans like Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police, End Racism Now and others. This began with the Black Lives Matter Plaza and has been copied and innovated upon in a lot of places
Philadelphia, END RACISM NOW
Charlotte – BLACK LIVES MATTER
George Floyd Memorial
CHOP has a good one too
Jackson, Michigan – BLACK LIVES MATTER
Birmingham, BLACK LIVES MATTER
Denver, BLACK LIVES MATTER
Baltimore, DEFUND THE POLICE
ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER painted on Hollywood Boulevard (this one is colorful)
Two men dressed in apparent KKK hoods turned away at protest in Fallon, NV
A burning cross was placed in the yard of a BLM organizer in Marion, Virginia
New York Post: https://nypost.com/2020/06/17/police-investigate-burning-cross-found-at-blm-protesters-home/?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=NYPTwitter&utm_medium=SocialFlow&__twitter_impression=true
Locals in Minneapolis take up arms to defend businesses
White Lives Matter painted on Arthur Ashe monument in Richmond, Virginia
$160,000 raised by teenager for vandalized businesses in Atlanta
ICE detainees stage hunger strike in solidarity with protesters
Three men, self-professed members of the boogaloo movement, were arrested for attempting to bomb a power station and hopefully create rioting across the state of Nevada.
Killing of George Floyd – WARNING: This article includes the video of his death, you can read the details without watching the video if it makes you uncomfortable.
Police Officers Responsible for George Floyd’s Death Fired
Police Building Set On Fire
Man charged with aiding and abetting fire at police station:
Derek Chauvin Arrested
County of Hennepin Charges Against Derek Chauvin: https://www.hennepinattorney.org/-/media/Attorney/Derek-Chauvin-Criminal-Complaint.pdf
Minn. AG Ellison Appointed to Help with George Floyd Case
Further Arrests and Upgraded Charge in George Floyd Case
TIME – Full Press Conference
AG Ellison Interview
Minneapolis Police Disestablishment
Council Member Tweets
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