news

His name was George Floyd: Why you're seeing this man's face all over your social media feeds.

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd died after pleading that he couldn’t breathe, while a police officer held him down with a knee on his neck.

The incident in the US midwest city of Minneapolis was live-streamed on Facebook by a bystander, showing white police officer Derek Chauvin arresting Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, while kneeling on his neck.

Floyd is handcuffed, and can be heard protesting that he could not breathe, before he becomes motionless. He later died in hospital.

Police said Floyd had matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case at a grocery store and that he resisted arrest.

The video begins with Floyd shirtless on the ground, and does not show what happened prior.

The officer, identified as Chauvin, holds Floyd down as he moans, calls for his mother and yells that he can’t breathe.

“My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts… I can’t breathe,” he said.

As bystanders shouted their concern, an officer responds: “He’s talking, so he’s breathing”.

Police officer Derek Chauvin. Image: Facebook.

About four minutes into the video, Floyd stops talking and is unresponsive as bystanders become increasingly agitated.

Bystanders approach Chauvin and the officer draws something, causing someone standing off-camera to say "he's got mace".

The officers ignore the bystanders' repeated requests to check Floyd's pulse, and Chauvin does not remove his knee from his neck until paramedics put the unresponsive man onto a stretcher - about four minutes after he stopped responding.

His name was George Floyd.

george floyd death
Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

Floyd, 46, was originally from Houston, Texas, but lived in St. Louis Park, just west of Minneapolis.

For years he had worked security at Conga Latin Bistro. His employer and landlord Jovanni Thunstom described him as "a good friend, person and a good tenant", the Star Tribune reported.

"He was family. His co-workers and friends love him."

A regular patron of Conga Latin Bistro, Jessi Zendejas, called Floyd a "gentle giant".

"Everyone who knows him knew he loved his hugs from his regulars when working as a security guard," Zendejas wrote on Facebook. "[He] would be mad if you didn't stop to greet him because he honestly loved seeing everyone and watching everyone have fun."

Roxie Washington, the mother of his six-year-old daughter Gianna Floyd, told the Houston Chronicle she didn't "even have words for it".

"It's cruel. They took him away from my daughter. She'll never see her father again."

Washington told the paper that Floyd was a promising athlete who turned to music after his playing career was over and to Minneapolis to find work in 2018.

"He was a loving person... and he loved his daughter."

"They murdered my brother." 

Floyd's sister Bridgett Floyd told the Today show the officers in the video should be charged with murder.

"I would like for those officers to be charged with murder because that’s exactly what they did. They murdered my brother; he was crying for help," she said.

"I don't need them to be suspended and able to work in another state or another county. Their licenses should be taken away; their jobs should be take away, and they should be put in jail for murder," she said.

His cousin Tera Brown also told CNN she wants to see murder charges filed.

"They were supposed to be there to serve and to protect and I didn't see a single one of them lift a finger to do anything to help while he was begging for his life. Not one of them tried to do anything to help him."

ADVERTISEMENT
george floyd death
Protesters march through the streets while demonstrating against the death of George Floyd. Image: Getty.

Four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's arrest have been fired.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firings on Twitter on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST), saying "This is the right call".

In a post on his Facebook page, Frey apologised to the black community for the officer's treatment of Floyd.

"Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a Black man's neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you're supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense,'' Frey posted.

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing Floyd's family. He described the officers being stood down as "a good first step on the road to justice", but said the city must "fix the policies and training deficiencies that permitted this unlawful killing to occur".

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department would conduct a full internal investigation and on Tuesday, police added the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has been added to the investigation.

Following Floyd's death, Chauvin - the officer who held him down with a knee to the neck - has been revealed as one of six officers who fired their weapons in the 2006 death of Wayne Reyes, whom police said pointed a sawed-off shotgun at officers after stabbing two people.

Chauvin also shot and wounded a man in 2008 in a struggle, after Chauvin and his partner responded to a reported domestic assault.

Protests erupt across Minneapolis.

Protestors took to the streets of Minneapolis with chants of "I can't breathe" on Tuesday night.

ADVERTISEMENT
george floyd death
Image: Getty.

Though they started peacefully, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the protest escalated in tension as the demonstrators reached a police precinct.

Officers in riot gear fired tear gas and projectiles at the crowd, who threw back water bottles and rocks, and some protesters fled and created a barricade with shopping trolleys in a nearby Target.

Crump, who is also part of the legal team representing the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the black jogger who was shot and killed after allegedly being pursued by a white father and son in Georgia, called for peaceful protests and social distancing.

"We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we must not endanger others during this pandemic," he said.

Reactions to Floyd's death.

United States President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday (Thursday AEST) he planned to receive a "full report" on Floyd's death, which he described as a "very sad event".

"I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement," he later tweeted. "My heart goes out to George's family and friends. Justice will be served!"

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called the incident a "horrific killing" and called for a "thorough" FBI investigation.

"Watching his life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words of Eric Garner more than five years ago - 'I can't breathe' - is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident but a part of ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country," Biden said.

Social media users have condemed Floyd's death and demanded justice, with #BlackLivesMatter and #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd trending on Twitter.

ADVERTISEMENT

Many high profile people have used their platforms to call for justice and change to the systemic racism that caused his death.

"Not three, not five but almost 15 minutes of a cop knees on a mans neck while handcuffed," Cardi B tweeted. "It's so sickening. Things have to change!!"

She expanded on her message on her Instagram.

"Enough is enough! What will it take? A civil war? A new president? Violent riots? It's tired ! I'm tired!" she wrote. "The country is tired! You don't put fear in people when you do this you just show how coward YOU ARE! And how America is really not the land of the free!"

Justin Bieber shared the video of the incident to his Instagram story, writing "THIS MUST STOP".

"This makes me absolutely sick. This makes me angry, this man DIED. This makes me sad. Racism is evil. We need to use our voice! Please people. I'm sorry GEORGE FLOYD."

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay wrote "We must act - for you - and for all of those where no cameras are present. We must."

Floyd's friend and former NBA player Stephen Jackson has promised to get justice for the man he called his "twin".

A Change.org petition demanding charges be filed against the police officers involved has reached 114,000 signatures, and a GoFundMe for Floyd's family raised US$155,000 dollars - more than its $100,000 goal - in less than five hours.

Feature image: Facebook.

00:00 / ???