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The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

“I Can’t Breathe”: George Floyd’s Last Words Heard Across America

George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday.
Courtesy of CNN
During an interview with CNN, George Floyd’s two brothers and cousin hold up a photo of Floyd.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA — A disturbing video from Monday night shows a white police officer pressing his knee on the neck of an unarmed black man, who is moaning and repeating that he can’t breathe. The handcuffed black man, identified as George Floyd, died at age 46 soon after his arrest.

The now-viral video, taken by onlooker Darnella Frazier, was posted on Facebook and shows several bystanders cursing and shouting at the four officers surrounding Floyd. According to a police statement, the arrest was the police’s response to a “forgery in progress” as Floyd allegedly had used a $20 forged check. The same statement claimed that Floyd “physically resisted officers,” but security footage later obtained by NBC News contradicted this claim.

On Tuesday afternoon, the four police officers involved in the incident were fired. Derek Chauvin, recognized as the white police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, has previously been involved in violent arrests during his 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department. On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for Chauvin to be charged.

“What we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey stated at a press conference Tuesday. “[Floyd’s] life matters, he matters. He was someone’s son, someone’s family member, someone’s friend. He was a human being and his life mattered.”

When asked by CBS’s Jeff Pegues, Frey said that he considers Floyd’s death murder.

“I am not a prosecutor,” Mayor Frey told CBS, “but let me be clear, the arresting officer killed someone. He would be alive today if he were white.”

Floyd’s death has fueled both local and national outrage, sparking protests across Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Denver, and Memphis on Tuesday. By Wednesday night, some of the Minneapolis protests were no longer peaceful with people looting stores, vandalizing, and setting fires near the 3rd Precinct, and police officers began to fire rubber bullets and tear gas to break up crowds. Tray Pollard was one of the protesters who tried to prevent the protest from growing violent.

“[I’m] letting them know I stand with you, but I’m not gonna stand with nonsenseit’s just that simple,” Pollard said.

On Thursday morning, Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order activating the Minnesota National Guard in response to the growing violence, and that same evening, Mayor Frey declared a state of 72-hour local emergency “due to civil disturbances” in Minneapolis.

“I understand and I see why a lot of people are doing a lot of things around the world,” said George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, to CNN. “I don’t want them to lash out like that, but I can’t stop people right now. Because they have pain. They have the same pain that I feel. I want everything to be peaceful, but I can’t make everybody be peaceful. I can’t. It’s hard.”

The investigation of Floyd’s death is ongoing by local, state, and federal authorities, and the four officers involved in the incident have invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

“It is a violation of my ethics to talk and evaluate evidence before we announce our charging decision,” stated Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman during a Thursday afternoon news conference. “And I will not do that… that video is graphic and horrific and terrible and no person should do that. But my job in the end is to prove he violated a criminal statute. And there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.”

Freeman later clarified his statement regarding “other evidence,” and CNN explained that “he was not saying there is evidence suggesting the officer is not guilty but meant that he wants to ensure that whatever evidence is out there is incontrovertible and chargeable.”

Many have taken to their social media platforms to share petitions, GoFundMes, and other ways to help Floyd’s family. One Change petition that calls for all “the officers involved in this disgusting situation [to be] fired and for charges to be filed immediately” has over 3.2 million signatures. Many Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok users have changed their profile pictures to a graphic of a black fist, the symbol of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and celebrities have used their platforms to share resources and support BLM.

“Until we get #JusticeForFloyd, there will be no peace,” reads a statement shared on Twitter by Floyd’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump. “We also cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage.”

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About the Contributor
Taila Lee, Coeditor in Chief
Taila Lee is the second-year coeditor in chief and a third-year reporter for The Paw Print. Along with winning regional and national awards from Journalism Education Association (JEA), SNO, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Lee is a member of KQED's Youth Advisory Board for 2019-2020. She has been featured on KQED’s Bay Curious podcast and 2019 Youth Takeover, and she co-taught a student press law workshop at the National JEA Convention in Washington D.C. in November. Lee plans to major in media studies and minor in journalism at UC Berkeley to empower youth and inspire change with journalism.

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