I’ve posted a lot over the past few days regarding George Floyd and the fallout thereafter. I didn’t watch the video when it immediately went viral because I was honestly afraid. I was afraid of seeing another senseless death of a man for what, at absolute worst, was a petty crime. When I did see it what I saw was worse than I could imagine, and it affected me more deeply than I could have expected.
What I saw was a man being pinned down, with his hands cuffed behind his back and his face in the street, by 3 officers while another officer stood by. For several minutes he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. He advised of the pain he was experiencing throughout his body. He cried out that he was afraid that he was going to die and asked for his mother. Then he became unconscious and the police still did not let up the pressure. For over two minutes he lay on the ground not moving and not making a sound, with Officer Chauvin still pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck. Chauvin only let up when the paramedics arrived to load Floyd onto a stretcher. It was likely sometime between when Floyd stopped moving and when the paramedics arrived that Floyd died, because their report indicated that he was “pulseless.”
Take that in. Officer Chauvin knelt on the neck of a suspect until he had died, and then just kept on kneeling on him instead of rendering aid. It’s horrific. Unfathomable. In broad daylight 4 police officers, with a crowd around them and cameras in their faces knelt on top of a man until he died and then didn’t care enough to even attempt to revive him. What does that say about our society at large? What does that tell you about what these officers thought the repercussions of their actions would be, that they could do what they did on camera, and not one seemed to have a care about it?
And they were right. George Floyd died on May 25th and the video of his murder went viral the next day. Chauvin wasn’t arrested until the 29th, only after days of violent protest by the populace indicating they weren’t accepting a simple firing as adequate punishment for taking a man’s life. The other three participating officers still have not been arrested or charged. And spare me about the DA needing to review the evidence. There is no need to “review the evidence” prior to arrest and charges for almost anything else. If I was to drink myself into a stupor at noon tomorrow and get behind the wheel and kill someone in front of the police station I wouldn’t be escorted home to order Grubhub while the police and the DA took several days to decide if there was sufficient evidence to charge me.
They murdered George in front of a crowd without flinching because we have a history of the justice system at large refusing to hold the police accountable, and that is something that cannot continue if we are to move forward from this. Yes, there are police all across the nation speaking up against these officers, and I both admire and welcome it, but this has to take more than words. There has to be a conviction of Chauvin, and there has to be charges and convictions for his compatriots as well, because as long as there are no repercussions there will always be these bad actors who believe they can get away with murder, literally.
To add to the distress of it all is the cacophony of voices crying about “the property.” The same people that refused to acknowledge peaceful protests meant to draw attention to the very issue of police violence are now vocally requesting that people “peacefully protest” about these issues, even though that is a method that’s been attempted exhaustively in both the near and far past. Despite the fact that the same people requesting peaceful protests now largely denigrated those peaceful protests when they were happening. It couldn’t be clearer that the lives lost to police violence mean next to nothing to these people. There is no other logical explanation for people who actively downplayed and reframed and attempted to shift the narrative of these protests away from police brutality now advocating that peaceful protest is the only way forward, as if that hasn’t been tried. As if they’re the arbiter of how to end the injustice. As if they didn’t laugh at the notion of it when it was happening. It’s repugnant.
It’s appalling, the lengths people are going to speak out against riots but be all but silent in regard to the situations that brought them about. It’s nearly as hard to watch as it was to watch George Floyd die, because they just watched him die as well, and yet they are people who seemingly harbor more resentment for the righteous outrage of those tired of watching police murder their brothers than they do the extrajudicial murders of people on the street. The why is more important than the what. If the why is addressed the what stops happening. If it is not then the what will die down, but it’ll only happen again, because the why is the disease. The what is the symptom.
Through it all, I’m left to ponder – what if? See, I’m not speaking about these things from a hypothetical unexperienced situation. I’m a male person of color who’s had the pleasure of being unjustly arrested. I’m a POC who was aggressively unjustly arrested by three officers and after seeing some of the comments the past several days I must wonder. What if, while I was having my hands roughly cuffed behind my back, while those officers refused to tell me what I had done, while they pulled and pushed me through doors and outside and into a car, what if I had slipped or tripped and fallen? What if, while on face on concrete, I was unable to get quickly up when they wanted? What if they considered that, “resisting arrest,” and they knelt on me until I died? Would people justify it because those cops said I resisted? Would they say all I had to do was comply and I’d still be alive, as if not complying with officers who refuse to tell you what you’ve done to warrant arrest is worthy of death? Based on comments I’ve seen over the past days it’s hard for me to believe that many wouldn’t tell themselves these lies to make them feel better about my death, because to not shift the blame onto me would require the acknowledgment of the true problem. What if it happened now? What would become of my children? George had children. And god forbid anyone riots if that happened to me because then those who tell themselves I shouldn’t have resisted an unjust arrest might have to clutch their pearls about the destruction of a Target store.
I was lucky in my unjust situation though because the judge was in and had time to see me nearly immediately upon my arrival at the county jail and courthouse, and he realized the warrant that I was arrested under was issued in error. How is that lucky? I didn’t spend several days in jail for something I didn’t do, with no one telling me why I was there. I got to go home. And some of you might think, “JACKPOT! Just sue the police and you’ll be set.” But some of you know better. You know there’s no other “justice” for me in that situation. Some of you know that there is another standard for police. Some of you know that four police officers can murder a man in front of a crowd, on camera and that three of them won’t be charged, and you know that even if they all do eventually get charged that the likelihood of conviction and just sentencing are all but nil.
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