Americans Demand Justice For George Floyd


People worldwide are joining Americans to demand justice George Floyd (Credit: L Becker1999 from Grove City, OH /CC BY -SA 2.0/

Since May 26, 2020, cities across the US have been gripped by protests seeking justice for George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died in police custody on May 25, 2020. The incident has led to one of the biggest displays of unrest seen in America in 50 years and reignited the debate about law enforcement and race relations globally. From May 30 to June 1, 2020, thousands of demonstrators in cities across the world — from London to Berlin to Auckland to Brazil — marched in solidarity with their US counterparts to demand justice for Floyd and to protest against the mistreatment of minority groups in their respective countries.

Who was George Floyd?

Originally from Houston, TX, Floyd, 46, moved to Minneapolis, MN, in 2014 in search of new opportunities. After a brief stint at the downtown Salvation Army store, he landed a job as a security guard at Conga Latin Bistro, where he was known as "Big Floyd." The bistro's owner Jovanni Thunstrom describes the six foot six inches tall Floyd, as a cheerful man with a "good attitude." He also held a second job as a truck driver. Unfortunately, in the weeks leading to his death, Floyd had been laid off from both due to Minnesota's COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

George Floyd died on Memorial Day after being arrested and pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer (Credit: Lorie Shaull/CC-BY-SA 2.0/Flickr)

What happened on the night of May 25, 2020?

On the evening of May 25, 2020, Floyd purchased a pack of cigarettes with what an employee of Minnesota grocery store Cup Foods believed was a counterfeit $20 bill. When Floyd refused to return the merchandise, the employee called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher that Floyd had given them "fake bills."

Soon after, a police car with four officers arrived and asked Floyd to step out of his vehicle. A video of the arrest, captured by a passerby, shows Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of the handcuffed Floyd, who is repeatedly pleading, "I can't breathe." By the time Chauvin lifted his knee — a full eight minutes and 46 seconds later — Floyd had lost consciousness. Shortly after, at 9:25 pm, the 46-year-old was pronounced dead by the paramedics called by the police. The footage of the unnecessary police brutality, released on social media, incited outrage nationwide.

The George Floyd Memorial outside Cup Foods at Chicago Ave and E 38th St in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Credit: Lorie Shaull/CC-BY-SA 2.0/Flickr)

What led to the protests?

To prevent the situation from escalating, Chauvin and the three other officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — who were present at the time of the arrest, were fired from the police force on May 26, 2020. However, that was not enough to appease Minneapolis residents, who wanted more accountability for Floyd's death. That evening thousands of people gathered at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where the incident had occurred to demand justice for Floyd. The protest, which began peacefully, escalated as the night went on, with demonstrators damaging police cars and burning down the precinct building where Chauvin was stationed.

On May 29, 2020, the officials once again tried to defuse the situation by charging Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The accusations, which do not require prosecutors to prove that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd to get a conviction, carry a maximum sentence of up to 35 years. However, Minnesota's state guidelines usually recommend 12 1/2 years for a conviction on the murder charge and four years for manslaughter.

Hundreds of demonstrators stage a peaceful protest in Marin City, California (Credit: Aparna Bhudhrajs)

The charges, which many viewed as lenient, and the lack of accountability of the other officers, enraged the country. On May 30, 2020, residents of cities across America — from Seattle to New York City — joined Minnesotans in protesting against the police brutality. The demonstrations have since spread to over 200 cities throughout all 50 states. Characterized by loud, unified chants of Floyd's last words "I can't breathe," and "no justice, no peace," the protests have at times descended into violence with looting, vandalism, and fires, forcing cities to impose nightly curfews, with some starting as early as 6 pm.

Alarmed at the growing unrest, city officials and leaders are urging people to end the violence and seek out more peaceful ways to accomplish change. "There are many, many ways for us to work together in a constructive manner that empowers our community to speak up with a loud voice," says St. Paul, MN Mayor Melvin Carter, the city's first African American mayor.

George Floyd's brother, Terrence Floyd, is also pleading with protestors to end the destruction of their communities. "My brother wasn't about that. My brother was about peace," he says. "You'll hear a lot of people say he was a gentle giant."

Americans hope the protests will result in meaningful changes in the US justice system (Credit: Aparna Bhudhrajs)

What additional steps is Minnesota taking to rectify the injustice?

The large-scale demonstrations have not been in vain. On June 2, 2020, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced an investigation into the Minneapolis police policies and procedures over the past ten years to determine whether the department has engaged in discriminatory practices toward people of color. "This is not about holding people personally criminally liable," said Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, who will lead the investigation. "This is about systems change."

In yet another critical step for justice, on June 3, 2020, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison elevated the charges against Chauvin to second-degree murder, which carries a harsher sentence of about 40 years. The three other officers present have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.

How do we prevent such a situation again?

While Floyd may get the justice he deserves, other victims of police abuse have not been as fortunate. Over the years, there have been numerous incidents of police brutality against unarmed and innocent African Americans, many of whom have been killed while engaged in day-to-day activities. In most cases, the officers involved have been let go with a lenient sentence, or even worse, absolved of all wrongdoing. Hopefully, law enforcement officials across the US will re-examine their procedures and make the changes necessary to ensure equitable treatment of all individuals, regardless of color or creed.

George Floyd is survived by his six-year-old daughter Gianna, who lives with her mother in Houston, Texas, where he will be laid to rest on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.

R.I.P George Floyd


Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
  • pickles2020
    pickles2020Monday, July 13, 2020 at 12:25 pm
    I protest for girls and boys like Gianna who will not grow up with one or both of their parents because of police brutality. I want my Black for friends to be safe. #BLM
    • thamy16
      thamy16Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 5:16 pm
      No Justice No Peace!
      • wolfieland
        wolfielandWednesday, July 8, 2020 at 8:59 am
        • wolfiegamer3
          wolfiegamer3Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 7:09 pm
          He Black Lives do matter I hope all of y'all that are black not to be rasised r doing good out there hope u guys are safe and thank u for the 20 followers my next goal is 35 got to go baii (bye) aloa
          • bugha1549
            bugha1549Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 9:40 am
            BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!
            • the_wolf
              the_wolfWednesday, July 8, 2020 at 12:02 am
              BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!
              • wolfieland
                wolfielandThursday, July 9, 2020 at 9:26 am
            • iamgood
              iamgoodSunday, July 5, 2020 at 5:03 pm
              BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!
              • laynebot5
                laynebot5Saturday, July 4, 2020 at 3:58 pm
                they must be depressed😭
                • goodvibesonly09
                  goodvibesonly09Friday, July 3, 2020 at 7:37 am
                  It does NOT matter what the color of your skin is white, black, brown, tan IT DOESN'T matter I just wish people could understand that the world is going through a lot right now WE are going through a lot right now we have covid 19 to and you guys probably think that "we want to help but we are just kids" well we may be just kids some of us but I know that all of us are special and I also know that WE can make a difference too we can stand up for different colored people because I know I just know that the world is BETTER than this. We have to stand up for whats right and whats wrong. People shouldn't get treated differently for how they look, talk, or anything for that matter! And I know that one of us could be the next Martin Luther King Jr. So PLEASE help stop racisim because we are all special. #Blacklivesmatter #Staysafe #Bekind Thank u for reading my comment because it was very long and I hope to see you guys standing up for other people 💗💗💗
                  • thejackal
                    thejackalTuesday, July 14, 2020 at 8:02 am
                    So true
                    • snowthaproduct
                      snowthaproductFriday, July 10, 2020 at 8:52 pm
                      So true
                    • godlove333
                      godlove333Friday, July 3, 2020 at 6:38 am
                      • blmloveyourrace
                        blmloveyourraceThursday, July 2, 2020 at 7:54 pm
                        I'm so sad 😢 yknow we have to stand up against racism! If someone calls you a bad name about your color, tell an adult! I feel so bad for George Floyd's family! #BLM #JUSTICE #RIP GEORGE FLOYD #RACISM IS WRONG !!