We are in Minneapolis, Minnesota. George Floyd, 46, is arrested by local police officers following a report of alcohol or drug abuse. Within 10 minutes, Floyd dies. Or rather, it’s not that he really died on his own. The precise causes of the death must be ascertained, but what comes out of the viral video of one of the passers-by is as clear as it is unbearable: for several minutes the man was forced to the ground with the agent’s knee pressed to his neck. Several times he has tried to ask for help saying “I can’t breath” (‘I can’t breathe’). No reaction.
A tragic story, isn’t it? But in my summary a fundamental fact is missing: George Floyd is a black man. And his death is by no means an isolated case.
According to the statistical research agency Mapping Police Violence, police in the United States killed about 1100 people in 2019. Black people represent around 24% of the deaths, despite their presence in the country does not exceed 15% of the population. The probability of a black person being killed by law enforcement is three times higher than the same fate for white people. And double if we refer to the Hispanic community, that is those not really black, but annoyingly too dark for some racist with the badge.
Between 2013 and 2019, according to the report, formal accusations or trials followed in a very few cases after a killing by the police. As reported by CNN, however, Floyd’s family raised an important request, supported by protest committees across the country and by the Black Lives Matter movement: the four agents involved in this matter should be accused of murder. Justice will then take its course on the basis of videos recorded by witnesses and surveillance cameras, which to date seem to conflict with the police reports.
As per the textbook, the reaction of the Minneapolis Police Federation was far from indignant: “This is not the time to hasten the judgments and immediately condemn our agents.” Now, let’s dwell on these words. It is still unknown whether Floyd was having any other pain or physical problems due to the state of alteration, a police officer remained having spent five minutes with his knee on the neck of an unarmed man who was begging to have some ‘of oxygen. It was a passerby who pointed out that Floyd was bleeding from his nose and was immobile.
The problem may not have been only medical, as the police have classified, but also cultural, with a precise matrix. In addition to racism, there has been a good deal of violence that has hurt many in our home too, from Stefano Cucchi to Federico Aldrovandi, passing through Riccardo Uva and all the victims of what they call police brutality in America. And perhaps it makes the idea more than our “abuse of power” formula, because it’s brutality.
For many black people, meeting a police officer is accompanied by a feeling of terror. According to a study published in 2018 in the medical journal The Lancet, news reports that episodes of law enforcement violence against a black person progressively damage the mental health of the entire community. The same type of reaction is not found in white subjects who, however sorry or worried, do not seem to have an impact on the perception of their own safety and well-being.
After Floyd’s case, some pictures of two of the agents involved circulating on social media, wearing the typical hat of President Trump’s supporters, with the words “Make America Great Again”. This is not verified news, but the worrying fact is that such a thing would not surprise us at all. As if we had resigned ourselves to news like this in America of the most racist president ever.
Perhaps this same sad thought made every single passerby stop to shoot the scene, or to be surprised from a distance. They could have, in three, in four, in ten, drive away the officer who was killing Floyd. They could have shouted like crazy, they could have leveraged the other agents present. They could have, and instead managed to normalize, tolerate such a scene until it was too late. They must have thought “they are still policemen, they know what they are doing”. But justice does not always bring the uniform and often to fulfill it needs our anger.
Please fill in the petition, make the right choice. No more injustices, no more terror. We are all equal!