I can’t breathe. Those haunting words are reverberating across the nation. They refer to the death of a man in police custody. The circumstances surrounding the death are nothing short of horrific. A week later, protests continue to spread, and cries for justice intensify.
George Floyd was a black man in handcuffs. Police suspected him of using a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase at a store. Mr. Floyd died after a white officer forcibly pinned him on the ground for more than eight minutes. The officer ignored bystander shouts to get off—and Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe. He also ignored his police training which specifies that a subdued suspect is to be raised to a seated or standing position as quickly as possible.
A citizen captured the tragic death on video. The incident has sparked days of protests in Minneapolis and in cities around the world. The officer in the video has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The killing of image bearer George Floyd grieves the Almighty. Our prayers should rise to the God of all comfort for his family and friends. And they should likewise extend to the police officers who participated—actively or passively—in the events that led to Mr. Floyd’s death. We are right to pray also for those charged with punishing the perpetrators of this terrible crime, as well as for all those acting now out of grief, anger, and fear—that in their anger they might not sin. Those prayers should appeal for repentance, justice, truth, impartiality, and judgment. They should also plead for redemption, peace, healing, and restoration in Jesus’ name.
An official autopsy last week “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” in Floyd’s death.
However, the lawyer for Mr. Floyd’s family has announced plans for the family’s own autopsy.
Across the United States, peaceful marches and “lie ins” have taken place in streets and parks. (Rather than simply sit, hundreds of distraught protesters chose to lie face down in recognition of how Mr. Floyd died.) But sadly, there have been multiple nights of violence in reaction to Floyd’s death too.
In Wisconsin, police fired tear gas as some protesters turned into rioters, throwing rocks and damaging stores following an afternoon of peaceful public protests.
In Minnesota, the driver of a semitrailer rolled into the midst of thousands of people marching on a closed Minneapolis freeway. The freeway was among many shut down in the Minneapolis area for the second night in a row. Officials there have set an 8:00 p.m. curfew to limit activity after dark.
Police officers and National Guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Kentucky, early yesterday. They returned fire after someone in a large group fired at them first. Horribly, they killed a man.
In San Francisco, the state Department of Human Resources ordered all California state buildings “with offices in downtown city areas” closed on Monday in hopes of calming protests.
Hundreds of people on Sunday marched down historic Route 66 in New Mexico to protest Floyd’s death. The protest turned violent early yesterday. Police say some demonstrators set small fires, and officers say they were fired upon.
Everywhere, protesters held signs, wore masks, and chanted, “Say his name: George Floyd” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” The latter has become an appeal for calm and self-controlled treatment of non-aggressive suspects who are approached by police officers.
UPDATE: Monday evening, the Hennepin County, Minnesota, Medical Examiner's Office released a new statement about Mr. Floyd's official autopsy, classifying his death as a homicide. It referred to the initial findings as "preliminary." The updated statement says that Floyd's heart stopped while pressure was being applied to his neck. The family's indepedent autopsy concluded that he died by "asphyxiation due to neck and back compression."
(Motorists are ordered to the ground from their vehicle by police during a protest on Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. AP Photo/John Minchillo)