Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt down upon the neck of George Floyd last Monday, as the African American man lay face down on the side of the road in broad daylight. The white cop continued to rest his body weight upon the neck of 46-year-old Floyd until he passed out.
The footage of 44-year-old Chauvin murdering the handcuffed and restrained man beggars belief. Passers-by captured the 25 May incident on their mobile phones. The onlookers pleaded with Chauvin to let Floyd up. But, they were ignored by him and the three other officers at the scene.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd calls out repeatedly. He continues to beg for mercy for the close to four minutes he remains conscious. And after he passes out, the killer doesn’t let up. Chauvin pushes his knee into Floyd’s neck for at least three more minutes, until the ambulance arrives.
The police officers had been attending a call regarding a man trying to use a counterfeit $20 note at a deli on Chicago Avenue South, when they found Floyd, who fit the description, sitting in a parked car.
Despite claiming the civilian resisted arrest, surveillance footage from a nearby store shows the officers calmly detaining the man.
And paramedics found Floyd unresponsive and without a pulse, prior to arriving at the hospital.
Chaos in the streets
Rioting has erupted in Minneapolis, which is hardly surprising. Police in the US are notorious for killing black people. So, having the drawn-out and cold-blooded murder perpetrated by law enforcement circulating on social media was always going to spark backlash.
On the day following the homicide, thousands gathered at the intersection where the incident occurred and then marched to the police station where the four officers worked.
The initial protests were purposely peaceful, but on arrival at the station, a small group of demonstrators began rioting.
Footage capturing the unrest on 26 May shows police officers in retreat, as civilians march upon them, repeatedly calling out, “You fucked up”. As the rioters of all racial backgrounds progressed upon them hurling projectiles, responding officers eventually took off in their vehicles.
By nightfall on Tuesday, police were firing teargas and rubber bullets into the crowds of protesters. And by Wednesday evening, the continued rioting – which now involved looting and the burning of buildings – had led the city to request support from the US National Guard.
“I can’t breathe”
The four police officers involved have been sacked. But, advocates want to see criminal charges laid. Officer Chauvin has been involved in several shooting incidents in the past, while officer Tou Thao – who shooed off onlookers during the killing – has been a defendant in an excessive force case.
The Minneapolis Police Department said in a Monday evening statement that officers had noted that Floyd “appeared to be suffering medical distress”, so they called for assistance. “He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later”.
Floyd’s body was lifeless as paramedics and officers rolled it onto a stretcher at the scene. As he was placed in the ambulance, one onlooker was heard to say, “You really just killed that man, bro”. Floyd called out for his late mother at one point as his life was being taken.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.