On Monday, May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year old African American man was murdered in Minneapolis, after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer, who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes.
That same day a video of his murder made its way around every corner of the internet, echoing his heart-wrenching plea, “I can’t breathe.”
We have heard those powerful, terrifying, words before. In 2014, Eric Garner, stammered in-between struggled breaths “I can’t breathe.” He was murdered by being choked to death by a white police officer. He had been stopped by the police for selling loose cigarettes on the street in New York.
Prior to Monday’s incident, a shopkeeper had called the police complaining that Floyd had used an allegedly forged check to pay for his items. After this reckless display of power and privilege which resulted in complete suffering, Officer Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd down with his knee, has since been fired along with the two other officers (names have not been officially released, but another has been ID’d as Tou Thao) present at the scene. But this is not nearly enough action to heal a centuries-old deep wound.
Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota with one of the deepest racial chasms in the country.
“They treated him worse than they treat animals,” said Philonise Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s brother, via CNN. “They took a life — they deserve life.” Floyd had worked in a restaurant but lost his job during the pandemic.
Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota with one of the deepest racial chasms in the country. This city, which has been painted with segregation for nearly 400 years and is subject to overtly devastating gentrification, is not foreign to police brutality or Black Lives Matter protests. In 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over and fatally shot by the police in the nearby suburb of Saint Paul.
Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident according to recent weeks, either. It follows on the heels of the murder investigation of Ahmaud Arbery and of Breonna Taylor. Their deaths echo patterns of police violence against unarmed Black people.
It reminds us of the all-too-familiar Central Park incident from a couple of days ago when a woman named Amy Cooper was caught on video threatening a Black man because he asked her to put her dog on a leash. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.”
These are not empty words, futile threats. A Black person’s life has easily become contingent on the words of a white person.
Outrage over Floyd’s murder and other inequalities have resulted in built-up anger and despair and sparked protests this week as protesters gathered in the street for multiple days, demanding police accountability and an end to the injustice that they face every single day in the hands of systemic racism.
A Black person’s life has easily become contingent on the words of a white person.
Many protesters clashed with the police who were spraying them with tear gas and rubber bullets, which later led to the onset of burned buildings and widespread looting after a local Target turned away protesters in need of milk to ease the burns that they endured from being doused in blinding tear gas.
Late Thursday night, President Trump ordered the deployment of over 500 troops from the Minnesota National Guard to the area after protesters set the police precinct in which Floyd died while in custody on fire.
That is a call for brutality from our own President.
Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis, said the officers’ termination was “the right call,” but many are demanding he push for more severe consequences for the police. Here’s how you can help Floyd’s family and advocates demand justice.
Donate directly to George Floyd’s family.
There are multiple fundraisers being held for George Floyd’s family. His brother Philonise Floyd has organized a fund to cover funeral and burial expenses and to support Floyd’s family as they continue to seek justice: donate here. His sister Bridgett Floyd is raising money to help support George’s daughter Gianna: donate here. NOTE: These are the two official links, anything else is not going towards his family.
Donate to help bail out protestors being arrested for demanding justice, support the ongoing fight against systemic injustices, and stand against racially-motivated acts of police brutality.
There are a number of organizations already on the ground, and we have them laid out for you to take action immediately.
The Minnesota Freedom Fund is a local organization that pays criminal bail and immigration bonds for those who cannot afford them. They’ve been providing protestor bail support to those arrested in the demonstrations demanding justice for Floyd. Donate here.
Update: Since protests have become nationwide, here’s a comprehensive list of bail funds per city.
The MFF is also encouraging donations to Black Visions Collective’ Movement and Legal Fund, a Black, trans, and queer led organization based in Minnesota supporting the protests; Reclaim the Block, a Minnesota org that lobbies for defunding the police and re-routing funds to affordable housing, health, violence prevention, civil right and renter protections; and Unicorn Riot, a non-profit media organization dedicated to fair, on-the-ground reporting on civil disobedience, police brutality and white supremacy. Several others include Reclaim the Block, United We Dream, National Bail Fund, and MPD 150.
Make a video of yourself calling for the police officers to be charged.
Color of Change is also calling for personal video testimonials condemning Floyd’s death and reiterating their demands to be used on social media to create public pressure. You can find details on submitting the video on the petition website.
Make calls and write letters directly to District Attorney Mike Freeman and Mayor Jacob Frey.
Applying pressure through every channel is crucial. Call DA Freeman at (612-348-5550) and write Mayor Frey here to demand the arrests and charging of the police officers. The petition can double as a script.
Sign the #JusticeForFloyd petition.
Use your privilege.
Whether you’re white or a non-Black person of color, be sure to call out those around you making racist comments. The burden can’t be on Black people to explain/teach those around them about systemic racism and police brutality. Recognize your privilege and use it.
Be sure not to ignore what’s happening because it makes you uncomfortable. Your white skin means you are never going to be a target, keep that in mind. Use it to your advantage, and for the right reasons.
If you are a non-Black POC, stop ignoring the anti-blackness in your community.
While it is easy to point fingers at the white majority, it is rather important to acknowledge the anti-blackness that exists in other minorities and communities.
Amidst the discourse regarding the Asian cop in the video of Floyd’s murder and the revelation that the store owner who called the police on Floyd was an Arab Muslim, it is time that we acknowledge the racism existing within our own groups, and how this is absolutely not the time to measure one’s pain against the other because this isn’t some sort of fucked-up pissing contest.
You do not have to wait for death to remember that this is an ongoing fight. Support the movement, uplift the voices of activists, and make sure that your support is consistent and sustained through action at all times.
Educate yourself – then pass it on.
Read books like How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi , Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Encourage children and young adults to read books about activism, race and social justice movements. If you have access, check out articles by scholars like Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, and Audre Lorde. Listen to podcasts like NPR’S Code Switch Pod Cause, and About Race.
The burden can’t be on Black people to explain/teach those around them about systemic racism and police brutality.
You could also read up on the history of the country, of social justice movements that have existed before, and how this fight for justice did not start with a hashtag a couple of years ago. Learn about policy changes that could be made and understand that it is a deeply political issue, and keep that in mind when you vote in elections.
Check out this comprehensive anti racism educational resource guide put together by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein.
Give emotional support to those that want it.
Check in on your friends, your Black relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors. Make sure they are okay. This is a very vulnerable time for a lot of them, so be there for them. Show your support.
For those that need it, here are some resources. However, this is not a decision for anyone other than the person going through it to make.
Protest while protecting yourself.
Cover your face, cover your tattoos, take out any identifiable piercings, wear masks, cover your hair, turn your location off, make sure they cannot trace back to you when protesting. Protect yourself.
Be thoughtful about sharing images and videos of police brutality.
While the widely shared video of Floyd’s murder has been institutional to the protests, do keep in mind that it is triggering. There’s also much discourse on the ethics of sharing a video that adds to the sensationalizing of Black death and bodies. If necessary include trigger warnings.
There are also multiple artworks created in honor of Floyd and the protests, feel free to share those – with credit – share resources and news pieces as a show of support.
Sharing recognizable images of protesters could put them in danger.
Protesters put much on the line when they march forward to demand justice. While we support their bravery, do keep in mind that their lives could very well be in danger due to their participation in riots and protests. Protesters could be defying their families and might not be comfortable sharing their identity with the world or putting their personal and social lives in jeopardy. The threat to their lives and wellbeing is very real because when reposting Black faces and bodies at protests, it becomes easier for the oppressor to identify who was present.
Police can use those images, too, for the purpose of scapegoating and to press charges down the line. So, if you are present at the protests, and record yourself talking, make sure to blur the face of any person in the background before you post unless they gave you explicit consent to be featured. We are unfortunately aware of what can happen when such images are misused and fall into the wrong hands. After the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, many movement leaders were arrested, jailed, and even killed.
Make sure to fact check – especially the legality of things – before sharing information, resources, etc.
It is so easy to get swept up under fake news, and we know that now more than ever. While anger, frustration, and grief could make us say and share information on social media, it is deeply important to fact-check yourself and understand the legal consequences of your actions.
These words need to be louder, they should reflect in actions, whether it’s monetary support or physical protests.
At the same time, know your rights. Did you know that the First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views through protest? Understand how the law could protect you and exercise those rights.
It is natural – and completely okay – to get wrapped up in grief. But as allies, if you wish to make a change, your activism needs to be louder than mere words, hashtags, tweets, and Instagram stories. These words need to be louder, they should reflect in actions, whether it’s monetary support or physical protests.
We live in a time where silence is a privilege and might seem like a safer, easier option, but your silence actually protects the perpetrator, the murderers, and the white supremacists, while those like Floyd are not allowed to even breathe.
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