I Can’t Breathe
written by Gloria Tatum
I’m dying, I can’t breathe,” were the last words of George Floyd, as Derek Chauvin put a knee on his neck for over 8 minutes, the last 3 minutes Floyd was not moving.
These police officers were the judge, jury, and executioner of George Floyd and this happens over and over again, year after year where the name changes but the color doesn’t.
The video murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers was the last straw that broke the dam of pent up simmering righteous rage over watching videos of unarmed Black men and women killed by police and/or vigilantes for minor violations or for no reason at all for decades.
Only recently, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police while sleeping in her own bed in Louisville, Kentucky. Ahmaud Arbrey was hunted down like an animal and killed by vigilantes while he was jogging in a white suburb of Brunswick, Georgia.
Floyd, Arbery, and Taylor have joined thousands of Black lives lost to police and vigilante violence every year https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed.
A Movement for Change, Justice and Police Accountability is Born
Socially aware youth marched – with their face masks on – all over America for police accountability, and said the names of other Black lives lost to police violence. They marched to demand the other three police officers responsible for Floyd’s death be arrested, and they marched for changes in the justice system that does not work for poor people, minorities, and the most vulnerable in our society.
People are angry for good reason, and sick and tired of lies, injustice, systematic racism, unending mass incarceration of citizens for minor violations, poverty, addiction, homelessness, mental illness, and racial killings for being Black. No healthcare for millions during a pandemic, affordable housing, and jobs that pay a living wage.
“When are y’all going to stop killing us?” Black activists have asked for years in peaceful demonstrations but the killings never stopped, the politicians did not listen and nothing changed.
These are some of the reasons why during the midst of a deadly coronavirus pandemic, black, white, young, and old citizens marched in dozens of cities including Atlanta, New York, Phoenix, Denver, Louisville, Memphis, Columbus, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Charleston, Minneapolis and St. Paul.
At the CNN center in Atlanta, “the police came with tanks, police vans, riot gear, SWAT teams, sound cannons, and excessive force. It isn’t a stretch to say they caused the reaction they got – breaking glass, looting, and heightened rage. Their premeditated aggressive presence stoked the flames of those who have been laid bare through the persistent, legal, and sanctioned violence and murder of the Black community by the police over centuries. The police did not come to diffuse the situation, they came to show force,” Cathy Harmon-Christian, Ph.D., an eye-witness to the violence at CNN Friday night, wrote in an email.
Cathy tells Streets of Atlanta that her teenage son was hit in the face with a rubber bullet while trying to protect a Black man who was being arrested for stepping off the sidewalk at a protest Saturday in front of the Governor’s Mansion
“People are tired of watching videos of Black people being murdered by the police over and over and over again. Enough is enough! People have righteous anger and they aren’t having it, that was the vibe out there, and among the protesters, there was a lot of love for each other.” Tee with RefuseFascism.org told Streets of Atlanta
“People say protests don’t work, but it wasn’t until people took to the streets in Minneapolis and after the police station was burnt down, they finally arrested the cop that murdered George Floyd.” Tee said.
Who is Derek Chauvin?
Chauvin was arrested Friday morning and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter four days after he pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin’s Police History includes 12 brutality complaints against him.
In 2006, he was one of six police officers who shot 40+ bullets at Wayne Reyes.
In 2008, he shot Ira Latrell Toles, an unarmed 21-year old Black man.
In 2011, he was put on leave for an inappropriate shooting of Leroy Martinez, an Alaskan Native American.
The restraint technique Chauvin used to murder Floyd was not part of the department’s training.
His wife, Kellie Chavins, filed for divorce after his arrest and said she was devastated by Floyd’s death and expressed her sympathy to his family.
The Fires, Militarized Police and War on Black People
There are conflicting streams of information regarding the fires and the burning of buildings and businesses. Some news reports claim its anarchists on the left who are anti-government while other reports claim its white supremacist trying to divide and conquer and start a race war. It could be both or just rage from decades of racial murders.
A preliminary study by a local network – KARE – found that 86% of those arrested were from Minnesota. Of the others, one person was associated with a white supremacist group, according to a report by Heather Cox Richardson.
Many protesters were arrested across the country including 71 arrests in Atlanta. Atlanta Police Chief Shields claims that outside aggressors infiltrated the peaceful protest. Other police departments are saying similar things.
What is known is that police cars in many cities are on fire with windshields broken and spray painted. Buildings in some cities are on fire including a police station in Minneapolis. Militarized police are firing pepper spray, rubber bullets, flashbangs at U.S. citizens who are throwing water bottles, and firecrackers at the police.
In New York two police cars drive into a crowd of youthful protesters, don’t know if anyone was hurt. In Los Angeles, police are filmed beating young people with batons to move them back from a line they are holding.
In Minneapolis, a CNN reporter was arrested and a journalist was hit by a rubber bullet in Los Angeles.
“We are under siege when militarized police forces come in and are aggressive against protesters and journalists. That kind of aggression begets more aggression. The people want solutions for police reform,” U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D) Minnesota, said on MSNBC.
Militarized police forces in America look more like an army and are treating American citizens more like invading terrorists. They are escalating the violence by their appearance and actions. The vast majority of the protesters are peaceful and they are our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers – not terrorists.
“Is this country in a war with Black people? We are tired of being afraid of the police, we are tired of being killed by police for being Black. We want change – being Black is a crime in this country” an autonomous man protesting in the streets of Minneapolis said on live TV.
Social justice activists are trying to raise the issues of injustice, systematic racism, police accountability, and demand for change but the violence, on the ground – by unknown groups or individuals – is hijacking their message.
There are always infiltrators and provocateurs in any social justice movement but who they are will become more clear with time .
“At the federal level, qualified immunity needs to be overturned. This law says police officers can not be held liable for what they do on duty as long as it was part of their job in an effort to protect themselves. When we see on video a police officer using more force than is necessary all the police officer has to do is say, “I thought my life was in danger.” They don’t have to prove their life was in danger,”Georgia State Rep. Renitta Shannon, (D) Decatur, told the Streets of Atlanta
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a 2018 dissenting opinion calls qualified immunity an “absolute shield” for police officers accused of excessive force. The Supreme Court has codified this law twice in the last ten years.
In the 2019 – 2020 General Assembly Session, Rep.Shannon introduced HB 636 Use of Force Data Collection Act to track police use of force.
Police departments do not have to report any use of force to the national database that tracks police use of excessive force, which only started in 2019.
“Mandatory tracking of police use of force on a database would allow you to know if an officer has repeated complaints against him. If an officer gets fired from one place, you may not want to hire him at another police department,” Rep. Shannon said.
“Georgia has not done anything to move forward with police accountability, they actually have more bills to give police more power. Republicans support the police no matter what and many elected officials are afraid of being called anti-police…….so nothing gets done,” Rep. Shannon said.
“Black and Latinos are afraid to call the police [to report a crime] for fear they will come in and shoot the first black person they see,” Rep. Shannan said.
“There has been a blueprint since 2015 to solve this issue [police accountability ] it is the Obama 21st Century Policing Initiative but that message is lost on our elected officials On the federal level, there is a lack of ability to craft legislation to address these issues…….The 21st Century Policing Initiative has 94 recommendations that not one police jurisdiction has fully implemented,” Attorney Gerald Griggs, said on a youtube video.
The recommendation in the 21st Century Policing Initiative will bring long-term improvements to the ways law enforcement interacts with communities, especially communities of color. It was created in response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting death of Michale Brown by a police officer.
But there needs to be a political will by elected officials and police departments to change and implement policies to address police violence.
Racial murders are not new but instead of uniting the country, President Trump fans the flames of racism into a raging fire that is consuming the nation with his racist tweets and demonizations of minorities. Another solution is to vote him out!