“We got all four. We got all four,” was the rally cry that rang out around the world by protestors in Minneapolis, Minnesota as the four former officers involved in the death of George Floyd were finally arrested and charged with his murder. Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are all in custody awaiting trial.
No justice, no peace has been the chant for decades by those seeking a change in the way Black Americans are treated. From the time that the ancestors of African Americans were vehemently removed from Africa to the present day of how race relations are handle, crimes against Black Americans have been committed with violators receiving little to no consequences as a result of others’ actions. This blatant disrespect devalued the worth of Black Americans and festered an anger and pain with the desire for real change.
Justice and peace seemed to be just a dream for Black America especially today when Black people one after another across the U.S. were killed despite being unarmed and in some cases not resisting arrest or being able to breathe. The names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Pamela Turner, Botham Jean, Jordan Edwards, Philando Castile are just a few of the many names that have been committed to memory of those whose lives were wrongfully taken by the hands of police. They were killed for such crimes as “Being Black while driving,” “Being Black while sitting in their own house,” “Being Black while jogging in the “wrong” neighborhood,” “Being Black while playing music,” and “Being Black for being Black.” Their lives were taken for so-called crimes beyond their control. The day when Black America would overcome became an idea that many hoped for but really didn’t believe would come. But oh the faith of a few and the unusual cruel death of one produced a change so that justice could be served.
On May 25, 2020, four officers responded to a call from an employee at Cup Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a claim that a Black man was allegedly trying to pay for goods using counterfeit money. The interaction between the officers and the man that the world would soon come to know as George Floyd became violent after Floyd was forced to lie on the ground. While lying on the asphalt, one officer dug his knee into Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds all while Floyd pleaded for his life saying repeatedly “I can’t breathe.” Two other officers helped to pinned Floyd down and a fourth officer stood by watching. Thankfully there were plenty of witnesses to the brutality and several who recorded the incident.
After the video of Floyd’s death went viral, retribution for the officers was quick, something that is rarely seen for police committing such a crime. All four officers were immediately fired and protests for justice ensued. In the days that followed protests would spread around the world with some turning violent resulting in looting, destruction of property, and outbreaks of fire with police responding with tear gas and a spray of rubber bullets to disband crowds. Four days later after Floyd’s death the first arrest was made with Chauvin being charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, a sentence that had a maximum punishment of 25 years in prison.
Insult is added to the death of Floyd with tweets from President Donald Trump glorifying violence and the release of Floyd’s autopsy results. The Hennepin County medical examiner made claims that Floyd’s death was a homicide caused by cardiopulmonary arrest. Floyd’s family had an independent autopsy done that determined Floyd’s death was a homicide caused by asphyxia “due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.” An investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department was launched. Nine days after the death of Floyd the other three former officers involved with his murder were charged with aiding an abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin’s charges were upgraded to second-degree murder.
Now we must all breathe for Floyd, the ones that came before Floyd, and the ones that will come after Floyd to see this thru until his murders are tried and convicted. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is prosecuting the case, has said the arrest of the Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane is just the first step towards justice for Floyd as the trial for officers will be difficult to try. If all four men are convicted for the murder of Floyd they could each get a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Just because the four men are now in custody does not mean the fight against racism stops. There are still a number of killers walking free. Hopefully, the trial and conviction of the “Minneapolis Four” will lead to more wrong doers behind bars. The bigger success will be a change of how racism is handle in America.
Former President Barack Obama said, “To bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented and we can monitor and make sure we’re following up on.” He went on to give details of ways to effect change by utilizing the specific evidence-based reforms to build trust and save lives, having mayors review their force policies and commit to report on planned reforms, and having every city increase policy reforms and public-private partnerships for expanded opportunities for men of color.
“It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country,” said former president George W. Bush. “Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America or how it becomes a better place.” He went on to say that America’s greatest challenge has been “to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity” calling it a threat to our Union.
Former President Bill Clinton made a bold statement dividing the way whites and Blacks are treated saying, “No one deserves to die the way George Floyd did. And the truth is, if you’re white in America, the chances are you won’t.” He further added that those in power need to ask themselves certain questions that deal with why this type of behavior keeps happening and listen to the answers. “We can’t honestly answer these questions in the divide and conquer, us vs. them, shift the blame and shirk the responsibility world we’re living in. People with power should go first — answer the questions, expand who’s “us” and shrink who’s “them,” accept some blame, and assume more responsibility. But the rest of us have to answer these questions too.”
“We need a government as good as its people,” stated former president Jimmy Carter. “Dehumanizing people debases us all; humanity is beautifully and almost infinitely diverse. The bonds of our common humanity must overcome the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices.” His solution for change relies on people in power and with privilege standing out to say “no more to racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy.”
The arrest of was the first very big step towards justice but it MUST certainly not be the last. The wheels of justice must continue to turn. Don’t let the fight stop or voices die out because of this small victory. Let the voices be like that described in the national Black anthem resounding “loud as the rolling sea” and let the bodies “march on till victory is won.”