America in Crisis: “I Can’t Breathe”; George Floyd’s Dying Words

By Thelma H. Johnson, Houston Sun Correspondent

Tyrone Williams marches in
BLM parade in Houston

It has been 21 days, 504 hours, 30,240 minutes since millions of protesters across the United States and around the world took to the streets seeking justice after witnessing the killing of George Floyd, a black man in police custody, by four Minneapolis policemen.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a star athlete and graduate of Jack Yates High, was killed in Minneapolis, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. A second and third officer further restrained Floyd while a fourth prevented bystanders from intervening. During the final three minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse. While Chauvin ignored onlookers’ pleas to remove his knee, which he did not do until medics arrived.

Should the prosecutor request to meet with those who have evident on what happened to Floyd, the largest outdoor venue in Minneapolis would not be sufficient for the millions of witnesses who have viewed the brutal killing firsthand on television, computer/tablet, social media outlets, cell phone, YouTube (in slow motion, frame-by-frame or fast motion), repeatedly, for more than 21 days.

The horrific killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others have sparked a global movement for racial justice. No Justice, No Peace, Black Lives Matter”, “ and Say His Name” have become the marching cadence of millions of demonstrators depicting all races, creeds and religions who demand changes in the methods and procedures that are being practiced by law enforcement officers in America against blacks. “I drive looking over my shoulder; I am looking for the police. I do not want to die,” Tyrone Willis, a Social Media Representative in the Mayor’s Office, said.

Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered Floyd’s eulogy in Minneapolis, reminded attendees that this is the time and this is the season for a change. “George should not be among the deceased today for he did not have a health problem; he died from a crooked criminal justice system malfunction. Whether you wear blue jeans or a blue uniform, when you take the life of a black person, you are going to be held responsible, and you will be brought to justice. Time is out; we won‘t stop! We will change the whole system of justice, he said.

Demonstrators continue to march daily, singing, chanting and speaking in one voice that they condemn in the strongest terms the senseless and unjustified killings of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement, and call on Congress to pass a reform bill that will prohibit the use of a chokehold. A mother with her two young sons echoed, “Blacks are living in fear, and the racist cops who should not ever been hired have made black neighborhoods their killing ground for more than 401 years.“

As the mother of a black son, I have always been concerned about his welfare. When he was in high school, he was stopped numerous times for “Driving while Black”. He was given an expensive car but could not drive it for fear of being stopped, for no reason, by police. Policing in America is intimidating and bias,” Linda Knight Burkley, an educator for 45 years, said.

The NAACP and The Links, Incorporated released a joint statement on June 2 to express their strong support of the collective outrage and calls for policing reform expressed by residents all over the country in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others at the hands of current or former law enforcement officers.

“The nationwide protests represent the anger, pain, fear, and distrust directed toward law enforcement resulting from decades of brutality against African Americans. For too long, law enforcement and the criminal justice system at large has racially profiled, arrested, convicted, and sentenced African Americans more harshly than the rest of America. As George Floyd’s killing tragically demonstrates, any interaction between an African American and law enforcement can instantaneously become deadly. We will not rest until all the officers involved in these incidents are arrested, charged and convicted. We must ensure that justice is served in each and every case,” Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said.

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