In July 2014, Eric Garner said the gut-wrenching final words, “I can’t breathe,” as he was fatally choked by New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo. Nearly six years after Garner’s tragic death, people are still fighting for justice following yet another wrongful death of a Black citizen at the hands — or knees — of a police officer.
On Monday night, 46-year-old George Floyd suffered the same fate when a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, as he echoed Garner’s words: “I can’t breathe.” Officers had pulled Floyd over in his car after getting a call that someone was trying to use forged documents at a nearby deli.
The officers at the scene on Monday night said that Floyd seemed intoxicated, and the police report stated that he had been resisting arrest, but recent security footage from a nearby restaurant shows anything but resistance.
The officer had his knee on Floyd for around eight minutes despite the pleas of bystanders. When the Minneapolis Fire Department arrived at the scene, the incident report states that Floyd had no pulse, and was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
People protested in the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday night, but things took a turn when police officers showed up in riot gear and threw tear gas and flash grenades as protestors threw rocks in return.
This is a protest worth fighting for, however, yet the response from law enforcement by throwing items only furthers the point that they should be afraid of the repercussions. The frustration people are feeling is justified, and yet law enforcement is punishing people for standing up against injustice.
Yet, there have been groups of people in recent weeks — on multiple occasions — protesting stay-at-home orders at the state capitol less than 15 miles from where Floyd was choked. Not only that, but these protestors have been seen waving their rifles without a single officer in sight.
It isn’t just in Minneapolis either; all over the country, people have been protesting the orders that are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with some protesters yelling in the faces of law enforcement who are present.
Why does this double standard exist? Look at the protests against police brutality versus the protest against stay-at-home orders, the latter — who are mostly comprised of white protestors — will always get leeway.
It’s white privilege, plain and simple.
We can all agree that the stay-at-home orders aren’t ideal, but they are in place because it‘s better to be safe than sorry. People are still dying from the coronavirus, but the numbers would be far worse if nothing was implemented. It’s easier for white protestors to not take these regulations seriously when minorities are the ones who are being affected by the virus the hardest.
Many of those protestors claim that they are fighting for freedom the same way the colonials fought against the British for independence, but the ones who are really fighting for freedom are those in Minneapolis and at every Black Lives Matter rally. It’s hard to just stay quiet when racism towards the Black community has been ingrained in this country even before 1776.
The protest in Minneapolis carries substance because it’s an issue that has plagued this country before its inception. Knowing the risk of gathering in large crowds during the pandemic, protesting injustice shows just how much Black lives matter, and it should mean a great deal to those in power as well.
The two situations cannot be compared when one is fighting for people’s lives and the other is just wanting to be able to get a haircut. Stay-at-home orders are meant to save lives, while Floyd’s life was wrongly cut short.
No matter the outcome, nothing will be able to bring Floyd back, and that’s what makes this situation so frustrating; no amount of justice can suffice. People are mad, upset and scared that if nothing is done, a friend, family member or themselves will become another hashtag.
Police shouldn’t be trying to punish and hurt these people fighting against systemic oppression, they should be worried about the protestors who are trying to let the coronavirus kill more of America.
There were no tear gas or flash grenades for all the protesters who can’t get their nails done or go to happy hour, so law enforcement should start treating everyone equally, because their favoritism has been — and still is — showing.