On May 25, a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The incident, caught on video, prompted outrage across the country — and lead to public protests, and a social uprising. Since news of his death broke, the protests over Floyd's death, happening in Minneapolis and elsewhere, have escalated in response to yet another instance of police brutality in the United States.
Per The New York Times, Floyd was killed on May 25, during an altercation with Minneapolis police. Video of the incident showed a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for approximately five minutes while Floyd could be heard repeating, "I can't breathe," and three other officers stood by. Floyd was transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead later that night. The Minneapolis Police Department identified the officers involved as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, per The New York Times, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on May 26 that the officers involved had been fired. On May 28, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo — the city's first black police chief — apologized to Floyd's family, and acknowledged that his police department had contributed to a "deficit of hope" in Minneapolis even before Floyd was killed.
“I am absolutely sorry for the pain, devastation and the trauma that Mr. Floyd’s death has left on his family, his loved ones and our community,” Arradonda said, per Reuters.
Now, days after Floyd's death, activists across the country are demanding that the officers be charged. In Minneapolis, protesters have taken to the streets to demand justice for Floyd and his family, many of them wearing masks as they protest during the coronavirus pandemic. On May 26, they organized a protest on the intersection where Floyd was killed, per Al Jazeera, and chanted "I can't breathe" and "no justice, no peace." Video footage of the May 26 protest showed police officers dressed in riot gear firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters. A police department spokesman confirmed the use of tear gas and foam projectiles to The New York Times.
On Wednesday, May 27, the protests escalated, with reports of fires around the city and businesses like Target being looted. CNN reported that as protests escalated, demonstrators threw water bottles and firecrackers at officers, as well as a police precinct building. Both Arradonda and Frey have called for peace, but Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, told CNN this may not be an easy or fair request in light of his brother's death.
"I want everybody to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt, because they're tired of seeing black men die," Philonise said. "These officers [involved in Floyd's arrest] need to be arrested right now ... and held accountable about everything because these people want justice right now."
Floyd's death comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected black Americans. It also follows years of activism against fatal police violence against black people. For many, Floyd's death tragically echoed the 2014 police killing of Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York, whose last words, also "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was killed in February by armed white men in Georgia as he went for a run, and Breonna Taylor, a black EMT who was killed by police in March in her Kentucky home, have also stoked activists' anger over the racism and violence black Americans face. Attorneys for the men accused of killing Arbery have denied that the shooting was a murder, per CNN. The Louisville Metro Police Department's Public Integrity Unit, as well as the FBI, launched investigations into the death of Taylor, and the officers involved have been placed on administrative reassignment, per the Louisville Courier-Journal.
As of May 28, many public officials are calling for investigations into Floyd's death. The FBI announced that same day that it would look into whether officers' actions violated federal law. The investigation will be spearheaded by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the local FBI field office, per NPR.