April 5, 2023

AAP contributing writer

MINNEAPOLIS (June 4, 2020) — On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in front of the Cup Food convenient store at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street.

A mural of George Floyd at the South Minneapolis site where he was murdered by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin on May 25. Everyday since his murder, thousands of people from all over the Twin Cities and beyond have visited the site and brought with them flowers, banners and food and water. This picture was taken at 5:45 a.m. June 4. Later in the day, a funeral for Floyd was held about 10 minutes away in downtown Minneapolis.  (Photo by Robert San)

Floyd had been arrested after being suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at the store. Several bystanders took videos of the incident, which were widely circulated and broadcasted.

In the videos Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck, even after Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe”, “Mama,” and “please.”

In the videos, two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening. During the final 3 minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse, but officers made no attempt to revive him. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even as arriving emergency medical technicians attempted to treat him.

Floyd later died at the hospital.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey immediately fired the four officiers involved: Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. But the sadistic murder and the videos sparked demonstrations and riots in the Twin Cities against police brutality, especially against black males. Similar unrest soon followed around the country. 

The Twin Cities demonstrations typically involved large peaceful demonstrations during the day followed by violent, destructive riots and looting at night. The most violent spot was near the MPD Third Precinct at Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue in South Minneapolis — the precinct where the four officers were based.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct was gutted during the riot of May 25. (Photo by Robert San)

The precinct building was gutted, along with many businesses at the intersection. There was also severe property damage eastward on Lake Street and as far west as Hennepin Avenue in Uptown.

St. Paul also saw its share of violence, mostly in the Midway area. The Target and Cub Stores were damaged and the Foot Locker was set on fire. A local favorite Chinese restaurant, Peking Garden, was not targeted by rioters but suffered serious smoke and water damage. The owner said it will be out of business for three weeks to a month.

The demonstrations and protests following Floyd’s death grew nationwide and worldwide, reportedly in more than 400 cities as communities became vocal about the use of excessive force by police officers and lack of accountability. Demonstrators skirmished with police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Demonstrators recalled several other police killings of unarmed black men and women including Eric Garner, who was also choked to death by a New York police officer. It was the second time a black man was killed in the Twin Cities since the 2017 shooting death of Philandro Castile, after telling a St. Anthony police officer that he had a registered weapon in the car during a traffic stop with his girlfriend and an infant in the car. 

Businesses along University Avenue at Western Avenue in St. Paul’s “Frogtown” neighborhood are boarded on June 3 with continued unrest over the police murder of George Floyd on May 25. (Photo by Robert San)

As the protests continue nationwide the family of George Floyd held his funeral on Thursday at the Frank J. Lindquist Sanctuary of North Central University in downtown Minneapolis. Floyd’s families and dignitaries attended the service while hundreds gathered outside. 

A mural depicting Floyd’s face included the words “Now I can breathe.” Behind Floyd’s gleaming bronze coffin, a choir and musicians filled the room with gospel music.

When Mr. Floyd called out in his last minutes for his late mother, she “was reaching out to him” from beyond, said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the service. She was welcoming him to “a place where the wicked don’t threaten you.”

Sharpton pledged that Mr. Floyd’s death would not be forgotten.

Businesses in the Midway strip mall at University and Snelling Avenues in St. Paul show scarring from fires on June 3, started during rioting, including the popular Peking Garden restaurant on the far right. The damage followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

“We’re going to keep marching, George,” Sharpton said. “We’re going to keep fighting, George.”

Before the service began, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Sens’ Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Tina Smith, D-MN, Minn. Gov. Tim Walz, Mayors Jacob Frey of Minneapolis and Melvin Carter of St. Paul and many others in attendance, most wearing COVID-19 masks, and quietly greeting each other with nods and elbow bumps.

Mayor Frey knelt with one hand on the coffin for minutes. His body was heaving and tears ran down his face.

Memorials for Mr. Floyd will also be held on Saturday in Raeford, N.C., and on Monday in Houston.

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