By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
The plight of Black Americans has been fraught with peril since the arrival of the first Africans 400 years ago to the Jamestown colony in 1619.
But, few times since uprisings swept across the urban centers of the nation in April 1968, in the aftermath of the murder of Dr. King, has a feeling of Black American rage seemed more palpable than this past terrible week.
In the midst of a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans –the disproportionate number of the dead being people of color, poor people and the elderly — Black Americans endured the reliving of a nightmare, the execution of another unarmed Black man at the hands of law enforcement as he uttered the phrase, “I can’t breathe.”
This undated handout photo provided by Christopher Harris shows George Floyd. The mayor of Minneapolis called Wednesday, May 27, 2020, for criminal charges to be filed against officer Derek Chauvin, who is seen on video kneeling against the neck of handcuffed Floyd, who complained that he could not breathe and died in police custody. (Christopher Harris via AP)
Pastor Seth Martin, a resident of Minneapolis spoke to the AFRO about the May 25 death of George Floyd, the calls for the prosecution of the officers and the tension mounting in the Black community.
“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened here,” said Martin. “In fact, Philando Castile is one thing that motivated me to move here. So, I’m heartbroken, but I’m also determined to shine the light on this darkness.” Martin refers to 32-year old Philando Castile, who was killed by a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop July 6, 2016.
Four White officers from the Minneapolis Police Department have been fired after a video surfaced of one of them with his knee and essentially his full body weight on Floyd’s neck, as the other officers stood by and watched. Floyd was lying on his stomach with his head turned to the side as the unnamed White officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for up to eight minutes according to local reports. Floyd, who was being detained for an alleged fraudulent transaction was heard on the phone camera video captured by a bystander repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” He was motionless on the ground for several minutes as the officer kept his knee on his neck. He was officially pronounced dead at a local hospital moments after his body was transported by emergency medical personnel.
Floyd pleaded for his life using the same words Eric Garner said at least 11 times prior to taking his last breaths in Staten Island, New York in July 2014; when he was killed by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is still employed by the New York City Police Department.
On May 26, dozens protesting Floyd’s arrest and death confronted members of law enforcement, which sparked arrests and tear gas being hurled at protesters.
Recently, a third White man was charged in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, who was gunned down in February about two miles from his home in a neighborhood outside of Brunswick, Georgia. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 50, was arrested on felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges in Arbery’s death, which has sparked national protests.
Yet, some believe the killing of unarmed Black men, whether by the hands of law enforcement or White vigilantes, is related to a recent rise in gun purchases by Black Americans and has compelled some to question the effectiveness of nonviolent protests.
Judi Reynolds, a disease intervention specialist and an assistant minister in Baltimore posted about the killing of unarmed Black men via Facebook, following what she describes as a disturbing conversation with her daughter, after she witnessed the video of Floyd’s arrest and death.
“I explained to her that some police officers are intentionally killing Black men for sport,” wrote Reynolds. “After we ended our conversation, I looked at my grandson and thought about some vicious White police officer putting his knee on his neck. In 2020, I just don’t understand why there is still so much hate for Black men. My flesh wants me to start packing a pistol, and have a loaded rifle in my home,” she added.
“In plain English, God’s Spirit is more powerful than anything we can do. So yes, protect your homes, guard your loved ones, make noise about racial injustice but most of all we need to ask God to intervene without ceasing.”