On May 25, George Floyd, 46, died after being arrested by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States.
In footage seen of his arrest, a white police officer named Derek Chauvin was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he said “I can’t breathe”.
According to reports, the events that led to his death and subsequent arrest of Officer Chauvin all took place within 30 minutes. Chauvin has since been charged with murder.
Here’s what you need to know about the rapidly evolving situation.
Bail set at $USD 1 million for three officers charged in George Floyd’s Death
Update: June 5 2020
A judge on Thursday set bail for the men charged in Floyd’s death at $USD1 million ($AUD 1.44 Million) or $USD750,000 ($AUD 1 million).
Under the conditions that they do not work in law enforcement or contact the victim’s family, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane are allowed to post bail.
Lane and Kueng helped restrain Floyd, while Thao stood nearby.
Former officer Keung, had only joined the force three days earlier, with Derek Chauvin, his training officer.
According to his attorney, Thomas Plunkett, Keung reportedly told Chauvin, “you can’t do this,” while he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Lane, had also been on the police force for four days when the incident occurred and according to his attorney Earl Gray, and reported by CNN, Lane was “doing everything he thought he was supposed to do as a four-day police officer.”
“You’ve got a 20-year cop in the front and my guy is in the back there with four days,” Gray told reporters after Lane’s court appearance.
“I don’t know what you’re supposed to do as a cop.”
The three men appeared in court a day after they were charged with second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Autopsy reveals George Floyd had Coronavirus
Update: June 5 2020
On June 4, a full autopsy of Floyd was released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The 20-page report classified his May 25 death as a homicide, while also detailing that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3 — but was asymptomatic.
According to the report, Floyd’s lungs appeared healthy however, he had narrowing or arteries in the heart.
The report also listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use, however, it was not under cause of death.
Floyd’s official cause of death is listed as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain, and neck compression”
All four police officers charged
Update: June 4 2020
All four police officers who were present at the scene of Floyd’s death have now been charged, as reported by News.com.au. Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight-minutes, has had his charge upgraded to second-degree murder from murder in the third degree, while the other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
All officers have now been taken into custody, and will all face the same potential maximum sentence as Chauvin.
Minnesota Attorney-General, Keith Ellison, said that there is only one goal while working on this case —”Justice for George Floyd”.
“I now ask for continued patience. This case continues to be under investigation. We will not be able to say very much publicly, except that we encourage anyone who believes they have evidence to come forward and be cooperative,” Ellison said at a press conference.
“Our job is to seek justice and to obtain a conviction, not to make statements to the press.
“I also ask for your trust that we are pursuing justice by every legal and ethical means available to us.
“The investigation is ongoing, we are following the path of all the evidence, wherever it leads.”
While prosecutors are working “quickly and thoroughly”, it could take “months”.
“The reason thoroughness is important is because every single link in the prosecutorial chain must be strong,” he said, pointing out that only once before has a police officer from Minnesota been successfully tried for murder.
“Trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard.
“I say this not because we doubt our resources or our ability. In fact, we’re confident in what we’re doing. But history does show that there are clear challenges here.
“It is better to make sure that we have a solid case, fully investigated, before we go to trial than to rush it.”
During the press conference, reporters at the scene questioned the decision to not give Chauvin a heavier sentence, however, Ellison explained that premeditation needed to be proved. He also noted that the protests were important, but “public pressure” played no part in the charges.
“George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value. And we will seek justice for him, and for you,” he said.
“The solution to that pain will be slow and difficult work of constructing justice and fairness in our society. That work is the work of all of us. We don’t need to wait for the resolution of this case to start that work.
“The demonstrations and protests are dramatic and necessary, but building just institutions is more about slow grind – but equally important.
“These charges are based on the facts that we have found, and we’re going to pursue them.”
George Floyd’s daughter and her mother speak out
Update: June 4 2020
In an interview with Good Morning America, Gianna Floyd, six, told the interviewers that she “missed” her father, describing him as someone who was fun and often played with her.
Beside her, was her mother, Roxie Washington, who recalled how much Floyd “loved his little girl”.
“He just wanted her to have the best,” Washington said. “We were struggling so he did what he had to do as a man and he had to come here [to Minneapolis] to work. And he said I’m going to come back and get y’all.”
“He would put her on his shoulders. She didn’t have to play with nobody else [sic] because daddy was gonna play all day long. And they played. They had fun.”
Washington then recalled receiving the devastating news from her niece, before talking about the video which has since gone viral.
“I watched it only for a moment,. I couldn’t believe that somebody was on him like that. And then in that moment, you know, because I loved him so much I wanted to help him or I wish I could’ve been there to help him. And just hearing him begging for his life.”
According to Washington, Gianna knew that there was something wrong “with my family”.
“She said ‘I hear them. I hear them saying my Daddy’s name.’ She doesn’t know what happened. I told her Daddy died because he couldn’t breathe,” she said.
George Floyd’s autopsy results revealed
Update: June 2 2020
The family of George Floyd have released the results of an independent autopsy finding that he died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.”
The investigation, which was made by Dr Michael Baden and Dr Allecia Wilson, said that his death was caused by sustained compression to the neck and back that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.
“What we found is consistent with what people saw. There is no other health issue that could cause or contribute to the death,” Dr Baden said in a statement. The autopsy findings also revealed that Floyd died at the scene, rather than at the hospital.
“Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That’s not true.”
Now, the Hennepin County medical examiner has also ruled his death a homicide “resulting from being restrained” and concluded that his death was not due to any underlying conditions.
? Breaking: Hennepin County medical examiner says George Floyd’s death was a homicide resulting from being restrained.
— Allison Gordon (@alligordon_) June 1, 2020
According to family lawyer Ben Crump, “the ambulance was his hearse”.
He then went on to say that Floyd would “be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck by fired officer Derek Chauvin and the strain on his body from two additional officers kneeling on him.”
“Mr. Floyd’s death was a homicide by officers who taunted him while holding him down for more than eight minutes. And the officer who stood by doing nothing was a physical blue shield — a living symbol of the code of silence.”
Brother of Floyd, Terrence, has also visited the site where his brother died, speaking through a megaphone and asking protestors “what the hell y’all doing” by “destroying” things during the protests. He said he understands that protestors are “upset” however, it’s “not going to bring my brother back at all.”
“It may feel good for the moment, like when you drink, but when you are done, you’re going to wonder what did you do.”
He went on to say that his family is “a peaceful family. My family is God-fearing.”
“Every case of police brutality the same thing has been happening. You have protests, you destroy stuff… so they want us to destroy ourselves. Let’s do this another way.”
“Let’s switch it up, y’all.”
What happened to George Floyd?
George Floyd was a 46-year-old father to six-year-old Gianna, and a Black man from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Known as a “gentle giant”, he had moved to the town after being released from prison, trying to turn his life around.
On the day of his arrest, a report was made by a store employee after Floyd bought a pack of cigarettes from Cup Foods grocery store, saying that he had given a fake $20 bill.
Floyd was a regular at the grocery store, owned by Mike Abumayyaleh, who told NBC, that he was a pleasant customer and never caused any trouble.
According to Abumayyaleh, who has not at work at the time, his teenage employee was just following protocol.
In a released transcript of the 911 call, the employee told the operator that the man appeared “drunk” and “not in control of himself” and demanded that Floyd give him back the cigarettes, but “he [Floyd] doesn’t want to do that”.
A friend of Floyd, Christopher Harris, would later say that this was “out of character” for him.
Shortly after, two police officers arrived as Floyd sat in a car with two other people.
The officers then reportedly approached the car, and officer Thomas Lane pulled out his gun, demanding that Floyd show his hands.
In an account of the incident, prosecutors claimed that there had been no reason for Lane to pull out his gun and then said that the officer “put his hands on Mr Floyd, and pulled him out of the car”. He “actively resisted being handcuffed”.
When Floyd stopped resisting, he was told he was being arrested for “passing counterfeit currency” and then when putting him into the police car, Floyd resisted once again.
According to the reports, Floyd then “stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic”.
Then, another officer by the name of Derek Chauvin arrived on the scene.
Furthering their attempt to put Floyd into the car, Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the passenger side, with the father-of-one, now dropping to the ground, lying face down in handcuffs.
According to numerous witnesses, Floyd was distressed and multiple phones captured the events which spread quickly on social media.
Chauvin then put his left knee between Floyd’s neck and head as he pleaded saying: “I can’t breathe. Please, please, please.”
The prosecutor’s report said that Chauvin kept his knee in place for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Six minutes in, he became unresponsive.
After bystanders saw that he had gone quiet, they pleaded with the officers to check his pulse. JA Kueng, another policeman checked and found that there wasn’t one, however, Chauvin still did not move.
Two and a half minutes went by and Chauvin finally removed his knee. Floyd was motionless. He was then taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in an ambulance and was pronounced dead an hour later.
What happened after George Floyds Death?
“The way he died was senseless. He begged for his life. He pleaded for his life. When you try so hard to put faith in this system, a system that you know isn’t designed for you, when you constantly seek justice by lawful means and you can’t get it, you begin to take the law into your own hands,” friend Harris said in a statement.
The day after Floyd’s death, peaceful protests began in Minneapolis but by Wednesday, May 27, some groups became more violent and began looting businesses, with images shared all over social media.
The Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, declared a state of emergency, deploying National Guard troops on May 28.
By that same evening, larger stores were being looted and conflict between protestors and authorities was at an all-time high. 170 fires were also lit overnight.
Over those same two days, protests began in 29 other cities across the United States — and President Donald Trump tweeted that the military would use armed force.
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he wrote.
On Friday, May 29, Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter, with bail set at $500,000 USD.
By Saturday, May 30, protesters had lit police cars alight and were being hit by police cars.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, at least 25 cities have been placed under curfew with at least four people dead.
The New York Times reported that 75 cities have seen protests and it is the first time since the assassination of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 1968, that local leaders have simultaneously issued such orders.
In Washington, thousands gathered near the White House, where Secret Service agents rushed Trump to an underground bunker.
According to the same article, two Atlanta police officers were fired for using “excessive force” during a protest.
Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, announced their dismissal, calling it “disturbing on so many levels”.
“The least of not which was that there clearly was excessive use of force,” she said in a statement.
“We understand that our officers are working very long hours under an enormous amount of stress, but we also understand that the use of excessive force is never acceptable.”
— Brittany Miller (@Brittm_tv) May 31, 2020
During the sixth night of protests in Washington D.C. (June 1), lights illuminating the White House went dark, while Trump remained in a safe house.
Protestors set off fireworks, with police responding with teargas and grocery stores and pharmacies were looted.
National sites were also marked with graffiti, including the infamous Lincoln Memorial.
Lights that usually illuminate exterior of the WH have been turned off. pic.twitter.com/mHfUEhT4Xd
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 1, 2020
On June 2, numerous military vehicles and military officials have also surrounded the White House making a formation in front of crowds and protestors.
Black Lives Matter movement
Black Lives Matter is a movement to “fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice”.
In a blog post on its website, it has demanded “acknowledgment and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police”.
“We call for radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of Black lives.
“George Floyd’s violent death was a breaking point — an all too familiar reminder that, for Black people, law enforcement doesn’t protect or save our lives. They often threaten and take them.
“Right now, Minneapolis and cities across our country are on fire, and our people are hurting — the violence against Black bodies felt in the ongoing mass disobedience, all while we grapple with a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting, infecting, and killing us.”
“We call for an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken.
We call for a national defunding of police. We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive but thrive.”
The post ends with a call to sign a petition.
As tensions continue to rise, corporate companies including Nike, Twitter, Citigroup and Netflix have shown support, aligning with themselves with the movement, but there needs to be more.
“To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up,” a statement on all Netflix social accounts read.
Celebrities are also those among the protestors. According to Deadline, Halsey, Yungblood, Ariana Grande, Emily Ratajkowski, Paris Hilton, Jaz Sinclair, John Cusack, Nick Cannon, Anna Kendrick, Ross Lynch, Jaz Sinclair, Jamie Foxx, Jeremy Meeks, Machine Gun Kelly, Sophia Bush and Kendrick Simpson all attended protests.
#BlackLivesMatter, #JusticeforGeorge, #ICantBreathe and #NoJusticeNoPeace are all trending on social media.
How can I help?
Here is a list of ways you can support and be an anti-racist ally in Australia:
More as this story evolves.