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The outrage over the death of George Floyd this week in Minneapolis police custody is turning to justice–not only for Derek Chauvin, the white officer who had Floyd helplessly pinned to the ground as the 46-year-old African American Floyd died.
Video recording by bystanders, showing the arrested Floyd repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” were widely circulated on social media platforms and broadcast by the media.
Floyd’s killing has sparked mass protests, some riotous, both in Minneapolis and across the United States.
All four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired; further, the officer who had his boot on Floyd’s neck at the time of death, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder.
“But I want to be clear that if the message was, this situation with Mr. Floyd is intolerable, absolutely unacceptable and must change. That message has been received as well. The governor, myself, the lieutenant governor, all of us are committed to that long-term change,” said Minnesota state Attorney General Keith Ellison. “And I can tell you I spoke to many legislatures who feel the exact same way. People in the philanthropic community feel the exact same way. So I think we’re going to do some real changes. We are not just going to fix the windows and sweep up the glass.
“We are going to fix a broken, shattered society that leaves so many people behind, based on their historical legacy of being in bondage and servitude, then second-class citizenship and now and fraught with disparities from everything, from incarceration to housing to wages to everything else,” he added.
That leaves the other three officers involved, identified as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng. Kueng held Floyd’s back while Lane held his legs, and Thao stood nearby and looked on.
“I think the police officer who murdered Mr. Floyd should be charged with murder, and indeed, he has been. I think the officers who watched him do this without stopping him also bear responsibility,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “I’m going to defer to the DA, the U.S. attorney and the FBI for the appropriate charge there.
“I also think that the people who are trying to burn down Minneapolis should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I believe in the rule of law. I don’t believe in mob justice,” Kennedy added. “I believe in free will and with free will goes responsibility. And I don’t care how angry you are. You are responsible for your conduct. And if you go burn down buildings and loot them, you should be prosecuted.”
George Floyd’s brother said that he wants the maximum penalty of death for all four officers involved.
“Just waking up to this — it’s not right. I woke up irritated, I had to get up and go to work, and then I wake up to this crime. My wife calling me over and over, telling me what’s going on. I couldn’t even shake it because I didn’t understand, because she kept telling me my brother has passed, my brother has passed,” said Philonise Floyd. “I looked, like, what? No. But to find out that he was killed by people who are supposed to serve and protect? No, I couldn’t stand for that.
“I want justice, and I’m not going to stop until I get the death penalty for those officers. I know firing them, that wasn’t the first step. They can go in another county and get a job. But what I’m seeking is that, because they executed my brother. I want justice,” he added. “You know, I want an arrest for all four of those officers tonight. A murder conviction for all four of those officers. I want the death penalty. I have not slept in four days. And those officers, they’re at home, sleeping. No, I can’t stand for that. They need to be locked up tonight.”
Despite Philonise Floyd’s desire for the death penalty, Minnesota abolished capital punishment more than a century ago. The only way that the former officers could receive the death penalty would be if they were charged with a federal crime.
Minnesota Gov Tim Walz (D) called for justice and social change, but also for calm as well.
“A library in an area where our children, as we know, are institutionally put behind and the achievement gap for our communities of color is a shame on this state that we continue to admire by talking about and don’t repair it. And that tool to help with that, burned last night. So I want to just call out very, very clearly, as we put a presence on the street to restore order, it is to open that space, to seek justice and heal what happened,” Walz said. “I will not, in any way, not acknowledge that there is going to be that pain, but my first and foremost responsibility to the state of Minnesota is the safety and security of all citizens. We cannot have the looting and the recklessness that went on.
“We cannot have it because we can’t function as a society. And I refuse to have it take away the attention of the stain that we need to be working on, is what happened with those fundamental institutional racism that allows a man to be held down in broad daylight,” the governor added. “And thank God, a young person had a camera to video it.”
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