Widespread protests have again broken out in the U.S.A. after the death of an African-American man in police custody.
George Floyd, 46, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25 May on suspicion of passing forged money. During his arrest, a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, despite Mr Floyd protesting that he couldn’t breathe.
Videos of the incident sparked protests across the country. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and three other officers dismissed.
“I Can’t Breathe”
Floyd’s plea that he was being asphyxiated was a grim echo to another case: in 2014, in Staten Island, New York, Eric Garner asphyxiated in a police stranglehold after protesting eleven times that he couldn’t breathe. It was one of the cases that fuelled Black Lives Matter protests across the country. The officer responsible was never charged, but he was ultimately dismissed from the NYPD in 2019 over the case.
Protesters about the George Floyd killing have been using the slogan and hashtag “I can’t breathe” in demonstrations.
There is an excellent comic report in TOPO magazine on the subject which could be very interesting for your pupils. This is in French, but online with a free access and one more way to understand what is happening these days in the U.S.
— La Revue Dessinée (@LaRevueDessinee) June 2, 2020
Black Lives Matter and other organisations support the protests, seeing this death as yet another example of the inherent racism in the American police and justice system. African Americans are disproportionately likely to be fatally shot by the police: 23.4% of incidents when they only make up 13.4% of the population according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There is a more general problem with police violence. According to the Mapping Police Violence database, “99% of killings by police from 2013-2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime”.
The video below urges people to remember George Floyd and other victims of police violence with the slogans #SayHisName and #SayTheirNames.
More Than Statistics
The current protests have spread across the country against a context of economic tension during the Covid-19 epidemic, which has hit poorer Americans much harder than their more comfortable counterparts. African Americans are statistically much more likely to live in poverty. The combination of low-paid work in front-line jobs which, and ineffective or inexistent health insurance and healthcare have meant poor Americans are more likely to be infected. Minnesota has one of the largest poverty gaps between black and white residents of any state in the country: 32% versus 7% While African American residents make up 7% of the state population, they account for 22% of Covid patients.
Black Lives Matter