Newly Released Transcripts Reveal Floyd Told Officers That He Couldn’t Breathe More Than Twenty Times!
Thanks to the concerned bystanders present, most of us have seen the unjust murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. Three officers physically restrained Floyd for nearly 9 minutes while he slowly suffocated. A fourth stood threatening bystanders to stay back. Having watched the footage myself I struggled with what I would have done had I been a bystander. Would I have just yelled at the police the way they did or would I have tried to get involved?
I’d like to believe that I would rush the police. I’d like to believe that I would risk my life for George Floyd. I’d like to believe that I wouldn’t even consider my continued freedom when making that choice. But my dad died from getting shot and I know that fear is always with me. And my mom was in and out of jail and prison for most of my life. I know how dehumanising the experience was for her. It was so unbearable that she had friends call me dozens of times a day for weeks on end, while I was at university, telling me that if I didn’t send her bail money she’d kill herself and her blood would be on my hands. It was so bad that she followed through with that threat and unsuccessfully attempted suicide more times than I can remember. And I’ve got a wife and three kids who are currently entirely dependant on me financially. Would I risk their well-being?
So if I had been a bystander, there’s a lot I’d like to think and believe but there’s just as much doubt. Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess. It literally makes me weep just writing that, knowing that I might watch someone die five feet from me because I’m wrapped up in making sure my own world stays unchanged. This is the exact reason so many people remain supporters of racist systems rather than engaging in the hard work of anti-racism; they fear how much it might cost them or those close to them. So please know that I am not innocent in any of this. I understand that I’ve got work to do as well.
But the entire reason this article is being written is because one of the four former police officers who arrested Floyd, Thomas Lane, has had his lawyer petition for his charges to be thrown out. Lane’s argument is that he was a new cop. That he was the one who called the paramedics for Floyd. That he asked the senior officer at the scene, Derek Chauvin, whether they should turn Floyd onto his side so he could breathe better. He actually asked this twice and was told both times Floyd was fine. His final line of defense is that he did not know that what Chauvin was doing would kill Floyd.
As part of this request, Lane’s lawyer asked the Minneapolis Police Department to make the transcript from the bodycam footage public. This is the most in depth look at what was said by, and to, George Floyd before he died. If you’d like, you can read the entire 82 page document or you can watch a video summary below.
But, suffice to say, Floyd’s story is even more heartbreaking when you have the full context. It turns out that Floyd was nothing but polite to the aggressive officers who stopped him but was also terrified, trying to explain to them that he had been shot by an officer before and making it vehemently clear he was not going to be trouble to them and would do anything they asked. At one point Floyd says, “Momma, I love you. Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.” he follows that up with, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, I’ll probably just die this way.” and his last words were, “Please. Please. Please.”
It’s no surprise that a black man in Western society has been taught to be polite, subservient, and as docile as possible even while he is being murdered by the police. But it is shocking to see the clarity Floyd had about the situation in contrast with the seeming total ignorance the officers had about the same situation. And that’s exactly what needs to be addressed here. If the officers involved in Floyd’s murder were ignorant, it was because somewhere along the way (perhaps even as early as the Police Academy) they chose not to see the truth. And, having made that choice, they continued to not see the truth as it presented itself to them over and over again.
This continued to the point where three officers forcefully held a black man down as he died in front of them and they are honestly trying to claim they didn’t realise what was happening. One of the officers, J. Alexander Kueng, was even a black man who had joined the police force because he wanted to stop the unjust oppression and murder of black people by the police. How could he have possibly been ignorant? How could any of them have been ignorant?
The only conclusion I can come to is that they weren’t. On some level, they must have known what they were doing. And if we continue to allow the police to kill black men and women and then get away with it by saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to do that!” then we’re just as broken and racist as they are. None of this is going to get better by itself. We all need to own up to our failings and tackle the work of anti-racism we have before us. And Thomas Lane needs to as well. So I hope that his charges stick and he chooses to become an active part of the solution rather than someone so scared to see their world change that they hide behind indefensible claims of white ignorance at the expense of black lives.
This has got to stop. We need to dismantle the white supremacy we find in ourselves, our institutions, and society as a whole. Though it seems to be all around us, everywhere we look, we need to be clear that there is no room for racism in the world of 2020.