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It’s been a year since George Floyd sparked the flames of historic change8 min read

May 27, 2021 6 min read

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It’s been a year since George Floyd sparked the flames of historic change8 min read

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Black Girl Justice Sticker by JellaCreative

How would you explain justice?

As you sit and mull over that question, let us journey back by one year. On the May 25, 2020, something tragic happened. George Floyd, an innocent black man, lost his life at the hands of a police officer. Now, one year later, people still haven’t forgotten what happened. Let’s find out why.

The events that led to the tragedy

(If you are already aware of the events that surrounded the murder of George Floyd, skip ahead to the next section)

George Floyd was a 46-year-old black man who worked as a guard or bouncer at a nightclub. He had lost his job to the pandemic like many other daily workers in America. Floyd was a simple working man who was also a loving father.

Editorial Cartoon: Rest in Peace, George Floyd - The Lighthouse|Black Girl  Projects
George Floyd. Image: The Lighthouse

On the evening of the 25th of May, Floyd visited a local store that he often frequented in Minneapolis in Minnesota. When he went to pay, a teenage worker at the store felt that the twenty-dollar note which Floyd had paid with was a fake. The teenager asked Floyd to take back his money and return the store’s goods. When Floyd didn’t listen, the teenager called the police as he was supposed in such a situation. On the phone, he told the police that Mr Floyd seemed drunk or intoxicated in some way and was not taking back his money.

When two policemen arrived, things turned sour quickly.

After a few scuffles, George Floyd had been handcuffed and held against his car. However, he seemed afraid to enter the officers’ police vehicle to go to the police station. He stated that he was claustrophobic and fell to the ground. At this moment, rather than comforting the poor man, two more policemen surrounded him. Together, the three cops forcefully attempted to push Floyd into the car.

Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds

Then, the policeman at the centre of it all, Derek Chauvin, ended up kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds! During those nine odd minutes, history was made.

Due to the pressure of the knee on his neck, George Floyd couldn’t breathe. Even though he was handcuffed and not threatening anyone, the policemen brutally killed their own innocent citizen, George Floyd.

I Cant Breathe Black Lives Matter GIF by INTO ACTION

What about the twenty dollars?

You’re probably wondering, how can George Floyd be innocent when he paid the store with a fake note?
Well, Mr Floyd could have been given that note by someone else, perhaps as change, without knowing it was fake. Moreover, even if he was carrying a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill, the punishment for a small crime like that would be minor and most definitely not death. Lastly, he hadn’t yet been proven guilty at all, so he deserved to give the police and courts his point of view before being given any sort of punishment.

But, most importantly, under no circumstance does anyone deserve to die in the way that Mr Floyd did. Especially since he was already handcuffed and posed no threat to the lives of the police officers.

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Within nine minutes, several people: old, young, black and white surrounded these men. As the police had firearms and threatened everyone to stay back, the bystanders couldn’t help. Nonetheless, they managed to capture the whole event on camera. Their cameras captured Mr Floyd gasping for breath as none of the policemen did anything about it. They also captured Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, and even after he had stopped breathing entirely.

I Cant Breathe Black Lives Matter GIF by Jonathan Rosen
A gif showing the names of all the black people that have lost their lives to unfair police actions and brutality.

But the policemen carried on, unaware of what would come next.

The videos went viral. The whole world was furious. This wasn’t the first time police officers in the US had used their power to act unlawfully, especially against black people. Despite lockdowns and the raging pandemic, tens of thousands of angry people took to the streets.

11 Things You Can Do To Help Black Lives Matter End Police Violence | Teen  Vogue

Why did the police continue even though they were being filmed?

Historically, police officers in America have gotten away with killing black citizens. They are rarely taken to fight their case in the courts, and even in court, they are often let off the hook and continue to serve as police officers.

America also has a law that protects police officers from most legal action against them. This way, even if police officers break the law and get caught, they can get away without it having much impact on their lives.

Racism

A lot of the public in America feels that the disproportionate deaths of black people at the hands of the police are due to racist beliefs. 

I Cant Breathe Black Lives Matter GIF by INTO ACTION

Racism is when people are treated unfairly because of their skin colour or ethnic background. It causes great harm to people. 

While being racist is a crime in America, many believe that is already embedded in the system. This kind of racism often goes unnoticed but has a terrible impact on black skinned or African American communities

Due to systemic racism, black people get fewer opportunities and many have low-paying jobs where they can’t afford proper healthcare or representation in court. This means that African Americans often don’t get the same rights and privileges as white Americans.

Some black Americans have to resort to petty crimes to survive. Then, the police is able to use that as an excuse to give black people harsher punishments, keep them in prison for longer, and even abuse their human rights. Police in America often tend to assume that black people are definitely guilty even when there is a lack of proof.

Racism within the system has its roots set very deep. 

Watch this video to understand systemic racism a little better.

The trial

All three police officers involved in the incident with George Floyd were immediately fired from their jobs. The man that kept his knee on George Floyd and killed him, Derek Chauvin, was accused of murder and fought his case in court last month. After a long, highly publicised trial in court, he was found guilty.

Black Lives Matter Blm GIF by NowThis
A lawyer that led the case against Derek Chauvin speaks in court. Image: NowThis

Derek Chauvin was convicted of Murder.

Finally, America celebrated! A police officer, was finally being held accountable for what he did to a black man.The other two officers are yet to face a judge in court.

Justice

Even though Mr Chauvn is going to go to jail, probably for a long time, many say justice is yet to be served. George Floyd’s case was one of the hundreds of other similar cases. In some instances, black children and women have lost their lives at the hands of the police, but nothing was ever done for them. Activists and even the United States President and Vice President have said that until the laws protecting police officers aren’t changed, justice hasn’t prevailed.

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What can you learn from the black lives matter protest?
Do you think you ever have negative thoughts or unfair beliefs about a certain community? What can you do to change that?
Have you ever judged someone/ been judged for the colour of their/your skin?
What is the difference between justice and accountability?

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With Excerpts From: Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, The Intercept, The Intercept, The Intercept, The Quint, Britannica Kids and BBC.

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