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George Floyd "Narrated His Death," Says Attorney at International Inquiry

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From Common Dreams

Testimony elicited at the hearings exposes two systems of justice -- one for whites and one for Blacks.

George Floyd Memorial
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George Floyd, who was publicly tortured and lynched by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, narrated his own death, legendary civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump told the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States at its January 25 hearing. "He narrated his death, like a cinema movie at the time."

The unarmed Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill. As Floyd lay face down on the ground with his arms handcuffed behind him. Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee firmly planted on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, squeezing the life out of him. Floyd pleaded, "I can't breathe" 28 times. "I can't feel my insides," he uttered. "I can't feel my legs." He called out for his mama, who had predeceased him by two years. Floyd said, "Tell my children I love them." Two other officers kneeled on Floyd's back and legs as a fourth officer stood guard to keep horrified citizens from intervening to save Floyd's life, threatening them with mace.

Philonise Floyd, George's brother, implored the commissioners at the hearing, "I'm asking you to let his legacy continue to build a brighter future from structural racism and police brutality...I'm asking and seeking justice for all Black and brown men, women and children who have needlessly been killed by racism and police violence." He added, "Not only did my brother have the weight of three police officers on him, he had the weight of a nation plagued with centuries of systemic racism that stole his last breath."

The murder of George Floyd is "the most important civil rights case of this century," said Crump, who represents the Floyd family. Indeed, the videotape of Floyd being tortured to death ignited a mass uprising against white supremacy throughout the United States and around the world. The officers who murdered Floyd weren't fired or arrested until the video galvanized massive protests. Only mass action will thwart impunity for racist police killings.

Attorney Jasmine Rand testified that officers in the Minneapolis Police Department receive "Killology training." They are instructed to kill rather than de-escalate conflict situations. Rand said that between 2015 and 2020, Minneapolis police used violence against Blacks seven times as often as against whites.

Floyd's case kicked off the second week of commission hearings, which feature testimony in nearly 50 cases of police killings of unarmed and non-threatening Black individuals.

The murder of Floyd was committed in broad daylight in the presence of several eyewitnesses, much like the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 23, 2020. Crump's firm also represents Blake, whose case was presented to commissioners on January 25 as well. Blake was left paralyzed after police shot him seven times in the back while his three little boys watched. On January 5, the Kenosha County District Attorney announced that the officer who shot Blake will face no criminal charges.

Another illustration of the impunity police officers enjoy is the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 22, 2014, when officers shot and killed him. Billy J. Mills, attorney for the Rice family, testified on January 26 that a whistleblower revealed that career prosecutors in the Department of Justice wanted to seek an indictment against the officers. But Donald Trump's political appointees quashed the investigation.

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)

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