Photo by Julio Cortez/Associated Press
This story was written by Timber Creek Talon reporters Aleena Davis, Tisha Shrestha and Peyton Lea.
Within the past month, the internet has been flushed with rallying cries in support of ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM), a social justice movement calling for social equality for African Americans and an end for police brutality targeting minorities. On the other side of the coin, there are also many Americans posting in support of the ‘All Lives Matter’ movement, or ‘Blue Lives Matter’ which are used to counter BLM and to defend police officers currently under scrutiny.
This social back and forth originated after the shooting of young black man, Trayvon Martin in 2013. The BLM movement was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Recently, the subject was brought to light again after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by two strangers whilst jogging, and the death of Breonna Taylor, after officers entered her home and engaged in gunfire with Taylor’s boyfriend, killing her in the process.
The real catalyst for the outbreak of protests, riots, lootings, and posts flooding timelines on every social media platform was the death of an unarmed black man, 46 year old George Floyd.
On May 25, on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, Floyd was killed by a police officer due to an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was in his car with two other individuals when two police officers had handcuffed him after an employee at Cup Foods called the police. Floyd was handcuffed across the street from the Cup Foods and more officers arrived. They moved him to the side of the Cup Foods building. A video taken by a bystander captured the event in which a police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for approximately 8 minutes. In the video, Floyd repeatedly tells the officer that he can’t breathe. The officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck 2 minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd was unresponsive.
Derek Chauvin, the officer that was videoed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, had previous complaints against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs. Chauvin had at least 17 complaints against him during his time with the department and other occurrences that resulted in open fire. One instance that happened in 2006 resulted in Chauvin opening fire along with six other officers that resulted in the death of a suspect. The suspect, Wayne Reyes, died after being shot multiple times and his death was seen as justified by a grand jury.
In 2008, Ira Latrell Toles was shot by Chauvin as he responded to a domestic dispute. When responding with another officer, Chauvin and Toles got into an altercation after Toles locked himself in a bathroom. They allegedly battled over Chauvin’s gun and Toles was eventually shot in the stomach. Toles survived and was charged with two counts of felony obstruction. Toles explained that the mother of his child called the police and he hid in the bathroom to avoid police when they entered the home. Chauvin broke down the bathroom door with no warning which led to the altercation between the two. Toles justified his actions by saying he fought back in self-defense and was too out of it to grab the gun. Toles pleaded guilty to charges. “He tried to kill me in that bathroom,” Toles said, reported by the Daily Beast.
A few years later, in a group of officers, Chauvin chased Leroy Martinez, a Native American man. Martinez was chased through a housing complex after being seen running with a pistol. One of the officers in the group, Terry Nutter, shot Martinez who ended up surviving. All officers involved were put on leave but later were cleared of any wrongdoing. Regarding the complaints filed against Chauvin, sixteen of those complaints were closed without anything more happening. One complaint led to two letters of reprimand but records did not include details beyond the initial complaint. The other three officers involved in Floyd’s death do not have as much information regarding previous problems.
The day after Floyd was killed, May 26, the four officers, Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng, who were involved in the arrest, were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Department. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension started their investigation the same day.
“When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, in a statement on Facebook. “This officer failed in the most basic, human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th last night is awful. It was traumatic. It serves as a reminder of how far we have to go.”
On the evening of May 26, protesters fled the streets of Minneapolis, chanting Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe.” Protests began popping up in multiple cities and states, including but not limited to Atlanta, New York City, and Dallas. They have continued for several days and have expanded to other cities by the hour.
On May 27, at a press conference, Mayor Frey requested the prosecution to charge the four officers involved in Floyd’s death with federal charges.
On May 28, Minneapolis protesters pushed down the fence set up by the police department around the third precinct, and set said precinct ablaze. “The precinct is on fire,” CNN National Correspondent Sara Sidner said. “We don’t know where the police are. The fire alarm is going on inside. People are cheering and more fireworks are going off as the police precinct is burning.”
The precinct had been cleared of anyone inside by Mayor Jacob Frey prior to the fire, which began shortly after 10 p.m. Tear gas was fired at the protesters by officers stationed on the ground as well as rooftops. Protesters then began moving towards the fourth precinct, which was being guarded by officers. They then began to loot businesses, including but not limited to the nearest TJ Maxx, of which was later reported to be on fire. All the while, 500 National Guard Troops were activated by executive order signed by Governor Tim Walz.
Along with the fires in the police precinct station and many other complexes, the Midway Target was also affected during the protests. The Target was known for its affiliation with local law enforcement. In 2004, Target had made a 300,000 dollar donation for CCTV surveillance downtown. Around 50-60 people hurried into the target at 11:30 a.m., with a crowd formed outside chanting “I can’t breathe.” People started looting and stealing from the store. According to a St. Hope police officer, a fight broke out which led to an attempt to run someone over with a car and ending up colliding with another vehicle. Some people also threw glass and carts at the officers. The looting of Target caused an uproar on Twitter, with support between the protesters and police officers. Click here to read more information about the buildings that were damaged during the protest.
Two tweets made by President Donald Trump and the White House had warning labels placed on them by Twitter for “glorifying violence” after implying that shots could be fired as protesting continued. President Trump posted a tweet that stated the following, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in regards to the looting of stores such as Target. Quickly after the tweet was posted, users noticed a brief notice attached that warned users of what they may be reading. The White House official twitter then retweeted the tweet which led to the same warning being placed. This was the first time any public figure of that office had that type of warning placed on their tweet. This occurred a day after President Trump signed an executive order to limit legal protections under a statute that shields companies connected to social media from liability for content posted under them. Twitter in reply called the order, “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law.”
Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order that implemented a curfew for Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The curfew runs from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The curfew’s goal is to ensure the safety of Minnesosta residents during this time of protests and riots. During the curfew, no one is allowed to travel the streets of both cities with the exception of responders, media, and working individuals.
After the installment of the curfew, on May 29 protesters breaking said curfew around 8:30 p.m. in north Minneapolis were met with tear gas. Fires also began to pop up all over Minneapolis, including federal buildings and stores. As opposed to looting and setting fires, there are hundreds of peaceful protests through St Paul, chanting things like “hands up, don’t shoot” and “no justice no peace, prosecute the police.”
A CNN news crew was arrested on May 29 while reporting live in Minneapolis. After about an hour, they were released and continued covering the ongoing protests. Omar Jimenez was arrested alongside his producer and photojournalist. Jimenez stated that he wasn’t booked which left no record of where he was for his family that witnessed him get arrested live. Police have attempted to justify the arrests by saying the crew would not move. Jimenez expressed that the crew was willing to move wherever the police wanted them and offered to get out of their way. Governor Walz apologized and said he would work to release the crew. Later on, all of the crew was released and Walz expressed to reporters that there was “absolutely no reason” when it came to the crew being arrested and took responsibility.
Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, was taken into custody on May 29. He faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges which would be approximately 35 years combined. Jeff Hayden, Minnesota state senator, asked why it took as long as it did for the charges to be filed. On the other hand, Mike Freeman, Hennepin County attorney, states that this is the quickest they’ve charged a case, he said that they only charge a case when they have enough evidence to support their burden of proof. According to a preliminary autopsy report on Floyd, there were “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” Although, “the combined effects of Mr. Floyd being arrested by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”
The following sources were used in this article: