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What We Know About the Death of George Floyd

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Photo Credit: The Offices of Ben Crump Law – Richard Tsong-Taatarii/The Star Tribune

  • A viral video shows a white police officer kneeling on the throat of George Floyd, a black man who was declared dead at a hospital shortly after the incident Monday.
  • A police statement detailing the event erroneously claimed that officers “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress” and called for an ambulance.
  • However, the video shows the officer kneeling on Floyd’s throat for at least 8 minutes, even after he became unresponsive, and only stopping when the ambulance arrived.
  • Police also claimed that Floyd “physically resisted officers,” but security footage seems to show that he complied with the arresting officers, at least initially.

Initial Police Report

A 46-year-old black man named George Floyd died Monday after a police officer pinned him to the ground and kneeled on his neck for several minutes outside a grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Most of what is currently known about the incident comes from a now-viral video taken by a bystander named Darnella Frazier, who posted it on her Facebook page late Monday night.

However, a statement released by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) the same evening titled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction” painted a drastically different picture.

According to that statement, just after 8 p.m., police responded to a “report of a forgery in progress” involving a suspect that “appeared to be under the influence.” Two officers arrived on the scene, located the suspect in his car, and ordered him to step out.

The suspect allegedly “physically resisted officers,” though they managed to get him into handcuffs. However, the statement goes on to say that during that process, the officers “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” and called for an ambulance.

“He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later,” MPD said, before noting that no weapons were used by anyone involved in the incident.

Video Version of Events

By early Tuesday morning, Frazier’s video was being shared all over social media, casting serious doubts and prompting widespread outrage over the version of events as told by the police.

The 10-minute video begins with Floyd being pinned down beside a police car by a white police officer who has his knee on his neck. Throughout the whole episode, another officer stands by him. Two other officers were also at the scene.

While the MPD has not identified any of the four men present, an attorney for the officer that is seen in the video with his knee in Floyd’s neck later identified him as 44-year-old Derek Chauvin. Several outlets have identified the officer who remains by him as Tou Thao.

Floyd is heard crying out, repeatedly begging the officer to stop. “Please. Please. I can’t breathe. Please,” he says over and over. 

A bystander approaches Chauvin from several feet away, urging him to get off of Floyd. “You got him down, man,” he says. “Let him breathe at least, man.” 

Floyd again says that he can’t breathe. Thao says “he’s fine.” Chauvin tells Floyd to “relax.”

At one point Floyd calls out for his mother.

“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” he cries. “I want some water or something. Please. Please. I can’t breathe. They gonna kill me. They gonna kill me man.”

More bystanders start asking the police to stop, with one pointing out that his nose is bleeding, seemingly from having his face pushed into the cement road.

“You having fun?” some asks angrily.

“I cannot breathe,” says Floyd. “I cannot breathe.”

Shortly after, the bystanders escalate their calls, yelling at Chauvin to stop.

“Bro, why you just sitting there? He ain’t doing nothing,” one person shouts. “Just put him in your car!”

“They’ll kill me. They’ll kill me,” Floyd can be heard saying over the din.

“He’s still talking. He’s fine,” Thao responds to the crowd.  

“Bro, he ain’t fine,” says one of the more vocal bystanders. “You’re fucking stopping his breathing right there bro.”

“Man, I Can’t breathe,” Floyd says.

“Okay, he’s talking,” Thao says again.

About four minutes into the video, Floyd becomes unresponsive. The bystanders’ yells intensify, and Chauvin pulls something off his belt that prompts someone in the crowd to call out: “What the fuck, he got mace. He got mace.”

Several bystanders repeatedly ask the police to check Floyd’s pulse. They refuse.

“How long am I going to have this conversation?” Thao asks.

The crowd’s calls escalate for the next few minutes. They say that he is not moving, and that Chauvin is killing him.

Meanwhile, Chauvin still has his knee on Floyd’s neck the whole time, and he continues to keep it there almost four minutes after Floyd becomes unresponsive. He only takes his knee off Floyd’s neck when an ambulance arrives and Floyd is loaded onto a stretcher.

According to the medical examiner, Floyd was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. on Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center.

Washington Post Releases Security Footage

From the video, it is evident that there are several jarring discrepancies between the official account of the police and what actually happened.

 The MPD statement said that Floyd “appeared to be suffering medical distress.” It does not say anything about whether the “medical distress” was caused or worsened by a police officer putting his knee on Floyd’s throat for around eight minutes.

In fact, the statement says nothing at all about the officers restraining Floyd other than that they eventually managed to get him into handcuffs.

On Tuesday evening, the Washington Post published security footage provided by the owner of a nearby restaurant that appears to contradict the claim that Floyd resisted arrest, at least at the beginning of his encounter with the police.

The footage shows two officers walking up to a car. Two people seemingly sitting in the passenger seat and the back seat get out and go stand on the sidewalk. Shortly after that, the officers removed Floyd from a car handcuffed.

An officer then walks him to the sidewalk and sits him down against a wall. There is no audio, so it is unclear what Floyd is saying, but he does not appear, at least physically, to be resisting arrest.

Another police car pulls up, and after a few minutes, the officers walk Floyd across the street and open a door on a police car before the footage cuts out.

Officers Fired and Official Response

Just hours after Frazier’s video started to spread Tuesday morning, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Twitter that all four officers involved in the event had been fired.

“Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” Frey said in a later statement. “What we saw is horrible. Completely and utterly messed up.”

“The man’s life matters. He matters. He was someone son. Someone’s family member. Someone’s friend,” Frey continued. “He was a human being and his life mattered.”

Around the same time, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement that the F.B.I. was conducting a federal civil rights investigation into, and that the state bureau was also conducting its own investigation at the request of MPD.

In a separate statement, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said that it was helping with the investigation.

“At the end of the investigation, the findings will be presented to our office for consideration of prosecution,” the statement added.

Response From Floyd’s Family and Lawyer 

While the firing of the four officers was widely applauded, many called for them to be charged and arrested.

Floyd’s family and their attorney have also demanded that more be done to the officers.

“They need to be charged with murder because what they did was murder,” Floyd’s cousin Tera Brown told CNN on Tuesday night. “And almost the whole world has witnessed that because somebody was gracious enough to record it… They need to pay for what they did.” 

“I feel those guys need to be put in jail,” George Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd told ABC. “They murdered my brother.”

Ben Crump, the lawyer representing Floyd’s family, also asked the public to call the District Attorney and demand the officers be arrested and charged.

Crump, notable, is also representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old black jogger who was shot and killed in Georgia in February.

As of writing, none of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been taken into custody.

Response on Social Media

In addition to Floyd’s family, thousands of people chimed in on social media to express their outrage over the wrongful death.

“The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted. “We will get answers and seek justice.”

“It is sickening to watch this black man be killed while helplessly begging for help,” wrote Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who represents Minneapolis and it’s surrounding areas. 

“Black lives matter isn’t just a chant, it’s call for justice. It’s a call for our humanity to be recognized. This must stop. There needs to be an immediate DOJ investigation into this.”

Numerous people also drew comparisons between the deaths of Floyd and Eric Garner, the young black man who died in New York police custody in 2014 after a white officer put him in a chokehold and Garner, who was also filmed on a cellphone, repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.”

Many social media users also shared a photo of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality, alongside a photo of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

The picture was shared by several prominent athletes, including basketball legend LeBron James. 

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Former NFL wide receiver Nathan Palmer also shared the photo in a tweet. 

“So…don’t ask why he took a knee…they’re still killing BLACK MEN and getting away with this sh*t! I don’t condone starting a war but I think it’s clear what we need to start doing yo…” he wrote.

Kaepernick himself shared Palmer’s Tweet on his Instagram story.

Protests Break Out

While countless people took to social media, hundreds more took to the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon and evening to protest.

The protests started out peacefully, with demonstrators meeting at the intersection where Floyd was killed chanting “I can’t breathe!” and “No justice, no peace!”

Around 6 p.m., the crowd moved to the 3rd Police Precinct where the protesters reportedly believed the officers involved were based.

When they arrived things quickly escalated. Several media outlets and the police claimed that a small group of people began to vandalize the precinct and were quickly followed by others.

That prompted the police to show up in riot gear to fire tear gas and flash grenades into the crowds to disperse them. The confrontation went on late into the evening before the protestors dispersed due to a rainstorm.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (USA Today) (PBS News Hour)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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