What Just Happened?The Murder of George Floyd

protestors, some walking and some on bikes, march with signs through the street to protest the murder of George Floyd

Protesters march on Hiawatha Avenue while decrying the killing of George Floyd on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Our Take

We are here—again. We are here—again. We are here—again.

How do we continually end up in this place, mourning another Black person dead at the hands of a police officer while corporate media clutches its pearls over the rightful anger of protestors rather than examining the structures that abet and protect state violence?  This time, the victim is 46-year-old George Floyd, who was killed by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. Like Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 by police officers in Staten Island, New York, Floyd was unarmed and pleaded with the officers who pinned him to the asphalt, repeating the words “I can’t breathe” as the life left his body. And like Garner, Ahmaud ArberyTamir Rice, and so many other victims of police brutality, Floyd’s final moments were captured on video and spread across social media for the entire world to watch and mourn. 

Floyd’s murder has sparked a particularly visceral reaction for a few reasons: He died amid a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black and Brown people while leaving more than 30 million people in the United States unemployed. He died under the knee of a police officer whose history of violence was known to Minneapolis PD, and who cavalierly put his hands in his pocket as he took Floyd’s life. Stephen Jackson, a retired NBA player, is one of Floyd’s close friends and has been able to mobilize his network and harness media coverage. And, to put it as clearly as possible, Black people are tired of being killed with impunity while the world watches and, in many cases, looks for reasons to say we deserved it. We are tired of people who could be our siblings, our parents, our grandparents, our cousins, and our friends murdered in the street with impunity. And when centuries’ worth of exhaustion meets frustration at a system that resists change and punishes those who agitate for it, we get an uprising. 

We’re witnessing anger bubbling over into action, which sometimes takes the form of looting. We’re watching people, many of whom know the risk of protesting during a pandemic, taking to the streets anyway to say no more. We can longer wait for the criminal-justice system, which has convicted only 35 police officers of murdering civilians since 2005, though between 900 and 1,000 people are shot and killed by law enforcement each year. Now is the time to rise up, and people across the United States are meeting that demand. For those in the Bitch community who are unsure how to help or want to know how to safely protest while COVID-19 stay-at-home orders remain in place, we’ve compiled a list of resources to get started. There is no better time than now to use your voice.


  • On May 25, four Minneapolis police officers handcuffed George Floyd, who was suspected of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit bill, and pinned him to the concrete. By the time he was put into an ambulance, more than eight minutes later, he no longer had a pulse. [New York Times]
  • Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old Minneapolis resident who videotaped Floyd’s last moments, shared the footage online. She has since been harassed on social media and reports that the experience has left her traumatized. [Refinery29]
  • Within 24 hours, four police officers, including Derek Chauvin—the officer who continued kneeling on Floyd’s neck even after he stopped breathing—were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department. [Star Tribune]
  • Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on May 29th. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has announced that the team prosecuting Chauvin will be headed by the state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, rather than the county prosecutor—an unusual decision necessitated by a longstanding community distrust of the latter. [VoxStar Tribune
  • Though the Hennepin County Medical Examiner found “no physical findings” to “support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” in its report on Floyd’s cause of death, an independent autopsy found that Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.” [CNN]
  • Since Floyd’s death, the United States has erupted in nationwide protests in Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York City, Denver, and a number of other cities. [Washington Post]
  • As protests went global this weekend, international media and political leaders have spoken out against American police brutality and anti-Black racism. [New York TimesWashington Post]
  • Some celebrities, including Taylor Swift and Colin Kaepernick, have used their platforms to call for justice. Other celebrities have been bailing out protesters and standing on the front lines of demonstrations. [Sports IllustratedElleNewsweekVulture]
  • There have also been widespread calls from celebrities and ordinary citizens alike to defund the police, making it less possible for them to employ a militarized response to peaceful protest. [Guardian]
  • Though a number of cities have enacted curfews to encourage protesters to stay home, there’s an increasing acknowledgment that police have both instigated and escalated much of the aggression by beating, tear-gassing, and arresting peaceful protesters. [Slate]
  • Across the United States, members of national and local press have been clearly and deliberately targeted by the police. Among such incidents: CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested on live television despite clearly displaying his press credentials—a few blocks away, his white colleague faced no such treatment—and photojournalist Linda Tirado was struck in the eye by a pepper ball. [Nieman Journalism LabGuardianNew York Times]
  • The way that news media frames and reports on Floyd’s death and the protests around it will determine the historical record for decades to come. It’s a big responsibility that media cannot afford to fumble, especially given the number of high-profile police-involved killings in the past decade. [Nieman Journalism Lab]
  • Donald Trump and other GOP politicians have, predictably, said little about Floyd’s death, choosing instead to blame protest violence on Antifa and promising to designate it a “terrorist organization.” (To be clear, “Antifa” stands for “anti-facist,” and has no centralized organization.) [Washington Post]
  • Other than using Twitter to incite violence, Trump has shown no leadership on this issue. In fact, the White House went dark on May 31 as protestors demonstrated outside its gates, continuing this administration’s streak of simply ignoring the very real issues impacting Americans. [Atlantic, Vox]
  • There is a high likelihood that protests will usher in a second wave of the coronavirus, making a heightened crisis even more deadly. But coronavirus enforcement has become another avenue for racial profiling for the police. [Atlantic, New York Times]


  • COVID-19 is not stopping. If you choose to protest, take care as much as you can to avoid spreading the virus or getting sick. If you can, consider self-quarantining after the protest. This is especially important considering the way that COVID-19 is disproportionately harming Black people. [The Cut]

  • Educate yourself and others on anti-racism with books, articles, and other resources that give historical context on protests against police brutality and the racist roots of state violence. Share widely and propose discussions about racism with those in your families, communities, and networks. There are specific resources for South AsiansAsian Americans, and Latinx people as well. [Alyssa Klein, Medium, NPR, Teen VogueRemezcla)

  • Know your rights if you are attending or organizing a protest. [ACLU]

  • Know your rights if you are stopped by immigration officials while protesting or see someone being stopped by immigration officials. [United We Dream]
  • Find your local #DefundThePolice collective and tell your city and county officials to spend less of their budgets on police and law enforcement. [Nation]
  • Be aware of the role of surveillance in protests. Don’t post photos and videos of protesters’ faces on social media. [WIRED]
  • The use of tear gas on peaceful protesters is increasingly common. If you’re planning to attend any protests, know how to protect yourself from the effects of tear gas. [International News Safety Institute]
  • Donate to bail funds and spread awareness about donating to bail funds through your networks. If you want to donate to more than one bail fund, make a donation here to have your contribution split amongst 38 different community funds. [National Bail Fund Network, ActBlue]
  • The Minneapolis-based organization Reclaim the Block has put together a comprehensive list of local community organizations to support. [Reclaim the Block]
  • Stay aware of any calls to action by ACLU Minnesota as they work to move the prosecution of Floyd’s killer to their independent attorney general. [ACLU Minnesota]


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