Ask a Collegiate | "I Can’t Breathe": The Anti-Racist Protests in the USA

At least 25 of the biggests cities in the US are facing gigantic protests over the death of George Floyd. The black man was detained by the police because he was accused of using a fake US$20 note, and moments after, he died asphyxiated on the floor by the knee of the cop Derek Chauvin. 

This event has mobilized several activists and ordinary people to fight on the streets against the racism in the country. Until now, one protester was killed by a gunshot in Detroit, a federal agent was murdered in Oakland, thousand of people were arrested, the army is on the streets in California, historic properties were burned and several cities face curfew proclamations. 

  1. 1. Chronology: What Happened to George Floyd? 

    It all started in 25 of may, about 8pm, when an employee of Cup Foods, a supermarket in Minneapolis, called the police to alert about a fake 20 dollar sign given by George Floyd while buying cigarettes. 

    Right after the call, the police officers arrived to the place and found Floyd sitted on a car with more two people right around the corner. After approaching the vehicle, one of the cops, Thomas Lane, took out his gun with no imminence of danger and commanded that Floyd exited the car and showed his hands. 

    After being handcuffed, the officers tried to put Floyd inside the police vehicle and that’s when a physical conflict started, according to the reports. A few moments passed and the man that was being arrested got tense and confessed he was claustrophobic, however, following the attempts to make Floyd enter the car, the officer Derek Chauvin made him fall on the floor. 

    He stayed there, with his face on the ground, still handcuffed. That’s when he started saying: “I can’t breathe”. Even though Floyd was being hold by other police men, Chauvin put his knee on the throat of the man, which saied rapidly: “I can’t breathe” and asked “please, please”. 

    For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on the man’s throat, according to the reports. After 6 minutes, Floyd was no longer awake. 

  2. 2. Who is Protesting and What are They Claiming?

    The truth is: there are all kinds of people protesting. But the movement ANTIFA, that fights against racism and fascism in the country is on the spotlight at the moment. Looking over the bigger picture, most of the protests were peaceful and even police officers participated in some cities - they kneeled beneath the protesters - a very symbolic gesture, since Floyd died after a policeman suffocating his neck with a knee. 

    Now, considering the confrontations, that usually start at dusk, some protesters are throwing fire on cars and monuments, committing criminal behavior, stilling, breaking houses and stores and not respecting the curfew imposed. On 29 of may, president Donald Trump had to hide on a bucker inside the White House to protect himself. 

    The topic that embraced the protest at the beginning was antiracism. However, according to the writer Michelle Goldberg in a column in The New York Times, there are many reasons for the US to be in flames right now. This is an atypical situation, the pandemic showed a vulnerability in the economy and a hole in the american system of health - everyone is in shock. 

  3. 3. How is The US Government Responding? 

    In an audio obtained by the newspaper The New York Times, Donald Trump orientats his governors to arrest the protesters and sue them, so they stay in jail for a long period of time. Until now, the main position of the government is to not tolerate. The president also mentioned that might classify the ANTIFA group as a terroristic one. 

    Even though promising justice for the death of Floyd, Trump named the protesters as anarchists on his social media, and said it was necessary to call the National Guard immediately.



The article above was edited by Laura Ferrazzano.