Former US President Barack Obama put out a statement on George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin his neck to the ground for several minutes.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America,” Obama wrote. “It can’t be ‘normal.’ If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”
He said the difference, comes “whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in the park.
” Those last two points seemingly reference Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed by two white men while on a jog in Georgia in February, and an incident in New York City’s Central Park this week in which a white woman called the police on a black man who asked her to leash her dog.
A video of the incident shows Floyd pleading with officers, saying “I can’t breathe” before going motionless with the officer’s knee still on his neck.
His death in police custody has led to outrage across the globe and protests in many US cities, including in Minneapolis, where violence has broken out over several nights this week. Floyd’s family, community leaders and residents have also called for arrests to be made.
In the statement Obama posted on his twitter account Friday, the former US president shared conversations he has had with friends over the past couple of days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota.
These conversations included an email from a middle-aged African American businessman who wrote, “Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt. I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic”
He also shared about another of his friend’s thoughts in describing what he felt and this was in reference to a video from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant singing a gospel song with lyrics written by his mother about being a young black man in America.
“The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. “It’s shared by me and millions of others,” he added.
He opined that it was up to officials in Minnesota to thoroughly investigate and seek justice for Floyd’s death. But, was quick to add that, “it is up to everyone to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020
In a related development, Africa Tembelea understands that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who will handle the case, said on Thursday his office would work through the case “as expeditiously, as thoroughly as justice demands”.
“We just can’t rush this,” Freeman said. “These need to be done right. Please give me and give me the United States attorney time to do this right and we will bring you justice.”
This statement came after a group of protesters “occupied” demanded criminal charges for the four officers – identified as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng.