When We Say ‘Black Lives Matter’ We Mean Cops Shouldn’t Crush Our Necks With Their Knee. Was That Unclear?

Cops Behaving Badly

Four Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officers were fired Tuesday for executing a black man on a city street. That was fast! But let's not pop open the champagne because justice was almost served. George Floyd is still dead. He was arrested Monday night for forgery, but he wasn't trying to sell a fake Rembrandt. He reportedly “matched the description" of someone of using forged documents at a deli. Paul Manafort was charged with tax evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering, but he somehow managed to remain alive in time for his trial, as promised in most copies of the Constitution.

Floyd “resisted arrest," the officers claimed, and that's why Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for eight minutes. Unfortunately, Floyd had a fairly common medical condition known as “needing to breathe," so he died painfully in front of disinterested cops and horrified bystanders.

Darnella Frazier recorded the last torturous minutes of Floyd's life, which she later posted on Facebook. Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground. Further “resisting" of arrest seemed impossible. He wasn't Houdini. Floyd is seen in the video groaning in agony and crying, "Please, please, please I can't breathe." These were also Eric Garner's last words. If you're a black person repeating those words, begging for mercy from a police officer, you must realize you're already dead, but you gotta give it a shot. Maybe he's one of those good ones we hear so much about. There was no such luck this time. One of the officers suggested Floyd just “relax" while Chauvin's knee rested on his windpipe, which is as perfect a description for the relationship of white and black people in America as you could find. Floyd cried out for his mother. He begged for his life some more: "My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts ... I can't breathe." The human bystanders expressed their concern for the murder in progress and one of the officers insisted, "He's talking, so he's breathing." That is both medically illiterate and sociopathic. These officers were completely indifferent to Floyd's suffering. People called animal control on Amy Cooper for yanking her dog's chain too tightly, but the police still commit war crimes on black people like it's another day at the office.


Floyd became motionless, his life escaping him, but Chauvin didn't remove his knee until paramedics arrived and loaded Floyd's body into a gurney.

“Don't do drugs, guys," one of the officers advised the traumatized crowd at one point, as if he was giving a PSA at the end of a "G.I. Joe" episode. George Floyd is dead.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey condemned the officer's actions as “horrible, completely and utterly messed up." Frey claimed Floyd's killing "does not reflect the values that Chief [Medaria] Arradondo has worked tirelessly to instill. It does not represent the training we've invested in or the measures we've taken to ensure accountability."

Sure, these cold-blooded killers have lost their jobs. So have 38 million other Americans in the past few months and most of them haven't murdered anyone. They also don't have the full support of a protection racket like the police union. All four officers should serve hard time, and that's why people took to the streets Tuesday night. Frey cautioned protesters to "remain mindful of COVID-19 while demonstrating," which is ironic because none of the officers wore masks when confronting Floyd. During the pandemic, police are also not generally pursuing small-time offenses like attempted forgery at delis.

Unlike those catered “no haircuts, no peace" rallies against COVID-19 shutdowns, people protesting the murder of a black man were met with tear gas and police in riot gear. Assholes with assault rifles stormed Michigan's Capitol and forced the governor to relocate, but no smoke got in their eyes. Somehow, every protest against police violence turns into Ferguson.

Crowds walked from the site of Floyd's death to a city police precinct. Some unmasked idiots damaged windows and squad cars, and defaced part of the building with graffiti. Property matters almost as much to white people as dogs, so this wasn't going to go unanswered. There were stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Most of the protesters were peaceful, and I suppose it is important that we respond to horrific state-sanctioned violence with Minnesota niceness. Public skepticism over whether the officers will face criminal charges isn't unreasonable. We don't want George Floyd to join Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and a long line of black people the police and their friends in the DA's office tell us caused their own deaths. We also have reason to fear they'll sue for their jobs back or go terrorize black people in another state.

Floyd was loved by his friends, family, and fiancee. He didn't deserve what happened to him. It's a familiar, tragic story, and every new one, every life senselessly cut short, makes it harder for black people as a whole to breathe.

Richard Pryor on the Police Chokehold www.youtube.com


[CBS Minnesota / New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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