Hands Up Don’t Shoot! – George Floyd
There’s nothing normal about today’s newsletter. In the wake of recent, horrifying events, we’ve decided to use our platform to shed light on a very important subject: police brutality on African Americans and the tipping point with George Floyd.
For the past few weeks, we’ve packed our Friday editions with feel-good news, in order to bring a much-needed light to your lives and ours. But today, we just couldn’t stomach it.
On Monday, 46-year-old George Floyd died at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. The officer handcuffed and pinned George Floyd to the ground after receiving a call about a man suspected of forgery. (Forgery!) As Floyd pleaded with the officer that he couldn’t breathe, the policeman continued to aggressively press his knee into the struggling man’s neck, until his eyes finally closed and he took his last breath.
A graphic video captured the incident, which has rightfully sparked outrage across the globe and incited mass protests in Minneapolis. Although the four police officers involved in the tragic killing have been fired, demonstrators are calling for the DA to file criminal charges against the officer on camera.
The protests have also become more and more violent, with police firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowds. Finally on Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey asked prosecutors to file charges against the officer.
But Floyd’s case is far from an anomaly.
There are countless harrowing tales of extreme discrimination against African Americans, often with tragic outcomes. This is not a black problem, this is not an American problem, this is a humanity problem — and it’s up to all of us to right it.
The History of Violence
Sadly, this isn’t the first time this has happened and it probably won’t be the last, but we all have a collective duty to try to put an end to police brutality.
Names like Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 after an NYC cop put him in a choke hold; Breonna Tayler, who was shot and killed in her own Kentucky apartment after police entered while searching for two alleged drug dealers; Freddie Gray, who died in police custody after being arrested for carrying a “switchblade”; and Micheal Brown, who was shot in Ferguson, MO., after robbing a convenience store; all likely ring a bell. Each one made headlines around the world after their lives were tragically cut short at the hands of the police.
These men and women are just a handful of the hundreds of black Americans that have been killed by police over the years. In fact, one in 1,000 black men and boys can expect to die at the hands of law enforcement.
This particular history of violence has a long, er, history. It goes all the way back to segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, when police were tasked with upholding “Black Codes” and the Jim Crow laws in the southern U.S. (often with severe brutality). Since then, the black community has had a strained relationship with many local police departments — and for good reason: black Americans are more than twice as likely to die at the hands of police than their white neighbors.
One of the biggest issues in America is the government’s inability to hold their police officers and departments accountable for their actions. While there are often investigations (even the FBI has gotten involved in George Floyd’s death) and sometimes charges, it’s rare for a police officer to be convicted of his or her crimes.
Not Just an American Problem
Though the vast majority of headlines covering police brutality are based in the U.S., the same issues are plaguing black communities in our own backyard.
As is the case for our southern neighbors, racial profiling runs rampant on Canadian soil.
“Black people’s ability to circulate in public space is very different than that of white Canadians,” says Robyn Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present.
In fact, just this week, Regis Korchinski-Paquet was allegedly pushed off her balcony, after police responded to a domestic violence complaint. Although the case is still under investigation, all eyes are on the Toronto police, as many believe they were responsible for Korchinski-Paquet’s death.
It’s no surprise that fingers are pointing at the Toronto Police Service: a TPS study found that black people are 20 times more likely to be injured or killed in interactions with city police, highlighting that this problem is pervasive in the 6ix, and undoubtedly across the rest of the country.
In Quebec, a recent report found that black and Indigenous people are four to five times more likely to be stopped by Montreal police than white people.
A poignant example is the murder of Pierre Coriolan, who was shot and killed on June 27, 2017. Police were responding to noise complaints from Coriolan’s Montreal apartment where he was suffering from a mental health crisis. Video evidence shows police shooting him multiple times. At present, there is a class-action lawsuit filed against the City of Montreal for racial profiling, demanding compensation for more than 150 victims.
The fact of the matter is, the “True North” may be strong, but evidently, we’re not all free, and a lot needs to change for us to get there.
Communities throughout the U.S. and around the world are fighting back against the horrific injustices taking place. After each shooting in the U.S., we’ve seen protests calling for criminal charges against those responsible.
Organizations supporting black communities have rallied around those impacted, helping families seek justice through the courts, holding peaceful protests, and writing to policy makers to demand change. Years ago, NFL players began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against police brutality and racism in America.
In recent years, they came under fire from Trump who called their actions unpatriotic. But that hasn’t stopped the players. After George Floyd’s death, LeBron James took to Instagram to share side-by-side images of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, and the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, with the caption, “Do you understand NOW!!??!!??”
How You Can Help
No effort is too small in the fight against injustice, but it takes many small gestures to create change in the world. Whether it’s donating to the families of victims, supporting organizations that work to protect the rights of black people, or finding ways to ensure equality in your own community, your help is needed and we guarantee it will be valued.
If you’re looking to join or support an organization empowering black communities, this list is extensive. It includes organizations with global recognition, like Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, but also smaller initiatives, like Black Girls Code, helping women of colour entering computing careers, and FierceNYC which caters to LGBT youth of colour.
This list, filled with all sorts of actions people can take within their own communities to fight racial injustice, is incredibly motivating. It recommends writing to your city representative and police chief to petition for de-escalation training and body-worn cameras. It also outlines the many ways in which justice systems unfavorably target the black community, and urges you to write to your local representatives and demand change.
On a more personal level, there are families mourning the loss of their children, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and grandparents. Many of these families have GoFundMe pages, where people can send messages of support or make donations to help cover funeral costs and legal fees, as they go on to seek justice through the courts.
- The Official George Floyd Memorial Fund
- Fighting for Justice for Eric Garner
- Justice for Atatiana Jefferson
Written by: Bullet Friday, May 29, 2020.