With the situation in Minneapolis exploding into rioting and looting on Wednesday and Thursday, former President Barack Obama, whose presidency was marked by similar racially charged protests over officer-involved deaths of African Americans, issued a statement Friday addressing the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old African-American man who died after a white officer held his knee on his neck for several minutes.
“I want to share parts of the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past couple days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota,” Obama begins in a statement posted on Twitter Friday (post below). “The first is an email from a middle-aged African American businessman.”
Obama then provides an excerpt from the letter:
Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt. I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The “knee on the neck” is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic.
“Another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustrations he was feeling,” Obama continues. “The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. It’s shared by me and millions of others.”
“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us,” he continues. “But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”
Obama’s comment about the park is a reference to the viral video of the white woman who called the police on an African-American man who asked her to leash her dog then attempted to call the dog over to him using a treat.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America,” Obama continues. “It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must do better.”
He concludes by calling for the collective creation of a “new normal.”
“It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done,” the former president writes. “But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020
After a night of intense rioting in parts of the city, including the burning of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Police Precinct building and more than 170 businesses damaged or looted, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced Friday the arrest of former Officer David Chauvin in connection to the death of Floyd.
Chauvin was fired Tuesday after a viral video showed him holding his knee on the neck of Floyd for several minutes on Monday. After repeatedly stating that he couldn’t breathe, Floyd died while in police custody.
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