On Tuesday morning, a video surfaced showing a police officer holding his knee on a black man's neck right before he died. The incident took place on a sidewalk in Minneapolis, where the man — who has since been identified as George Floyd — was being detained by officers while allegedly resisting arrest. However, multiple pedestrians reported that officers were using excessive force, with several people asking them to stop, in what has now amounted to an FBI investigation of Floyd's death.
The video shows officers kneeling on the man’s neck, cutting off his oxygen, for at least seven minutes of the ten minutes of video. Floyd can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” as the officer continues to put physical pressure on him. The same words were used by Eric Garner, who died of police brutality in New York in 2014. Five minutes into the video, the man is lying on the ground, motionless, with the police officer’s knee still on his neck. Onlookers can be heard saying, “Check his pulse.” Seven minutes into the video, an ambulance arrives, and an EMT does a pulse check, although the officer still has the man pinned to the ground.
Darnella Frazier, who witnessed the incident and recorded the video on her phone, says that she began taking a video from the moment Floyd was placed in handcuffs. She then posted it on Facebook for proof.
According to the police, the incident happened after 8 pm on Monday 25th May after someone placed a 911 call to report a man who attempted to forge a check, mentioning that the suspect was in a nearby parking lot and seemingly under the influence.
After being ordered to step away from the vehicle, Floyd reportedly resisted. According to a statement from John Elder, spokesman for the Minneapolis police, “He was ordered to step from the car … after he got out he physically resisted officers … officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and the officers noticed the male was going into medical distress.” The police have claimed that no weapons were used and body cameras were turned on during the incident.
Minneapolis Police, who told Refinery29 that they cannot comment on the events at this time, have since come under fire from city and state-level leaders. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement on Tuesday that "being Black in America should not be a death sentence."
"For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense." Melvin Carter, the mayor of neighbouring city St Paul, also spoke to CNN regarding the horrific video and what it means for police brutality in the US.
"When you see a handful of officers, it speaks to a normalised and accepted culture of abuse that we know is an ugly part of our history in America, and cannot be part of our future," Melvin Carter, the mayor of St. Paul, said in a segment that aired on CNN.
Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be investigating the situation, per request by the Minneapolis Police Department. According to Mapping Police Violence, Minneapolis police kill Black people at a rate of 13 times more than white people — one of the largest racial disparities in policing in the country. The investigation is currently ongoing.
Following the reports of multiple Black men dying without justice in recent weeks, Floyd's death perpetuates a massive debate about this country's issue with police brutality in America. But, according to Carter, it's more important than ever to take the video footage at face value, and look at what this means for our future.
"We know there will be an effort to slander the victim or blame the victim, but we can't let anything distract us from the fact that we have a ten minute video of an officer putting his full weight into the back of the neck of a man, while he begs for help, and while bystanders scream that this man is dying," Carter said.