On Monday, an unarmed black man was killed in Minneapolis when an arresting officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes after being called about a suspected forgery. By Friday, the city was in flames and President Donald Trump took aim at both protesters and Twitter alike — denouncing the former as “thugs” and the latter as rife with propaganda.
How did we get here? Tensions have been on the rise for months now — not only are we in the midst of an international pandemic (and an election year), but even during a national lockdown, the killing of unarmed black citizens goes on. In February, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two white men while out for a jog in Georgia. It took a video of his death surfacing in May for the men to be arrested. Then, in March, EMT Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times when police forced their way into her apartment to serve a warrant in a narcotics investigation. Taylor’s mother has since filed an unlawful death suit, claiming that the suspect in question had already been arrested — plus there were no drugs in the apartment.
George Floyd, 46, was the most recent black person to be killed by police — a death that has sparked a literal fire in Minneapolis, where he died. Below, we have compiled an ongoing timeline of what is known about his death, as well as the civil unrest that has occurred since.
Monday, May 25th
Monday, a Facebook user posted a video in which George Floyd, 46, was killed by police outside the Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis, writing: “They killed him right in front of Cup Foods over south on 38th and Chicago! No type of sympathy.”
The video showed a white police office kneeling on a black man’s neck in the midst of the arrest. The man, Floyd, repeatedly tells the cop that he can’t breathe. After several minutes, the man ceases to move, yet the officer still bears down on his neck. Bystanders call for the officer to let the man go. “He’s not even resisting arrest right now, bro,” one says, while another informs the officer that Floyd’s nose is bleeding and that he looks like he’s about to pass out.
According to a statement from the Minneapolis Police Department, officers were called to Cup Foods to investigate reports of a forgery. Floyd — who was suspected of attempting to spend a counterfeit $20 bill — was in his car when police arrived and ordered that he exit the vehicle. According to police spokesman John Elder, Floyd “physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” Floyd was taken to the hospital and died of his injuries.
Tuesday, May 26th
The FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began investigating the incident, and the four officers involved were fired. “This is the right call,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said on Twitter. “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” he wrote on Facebook. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th last night is awful. It was traumatic. It serves as a reminder of how far we have to go.”
Floyd’s cousin, Tera Brown, called for the four fired cops involved to be charged with murder. “He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” she told CNN. “They took a life — they deserve life.”
That evening, protesters gathered in the streets of Minneapolis chanting “I can’t breathe.”
“He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” says Tera Brown, cousin of George Floyd, who said he couldn’t breathe as a police officer used a knee to hold him down by the neck. Brown said the four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death should be “charged with murder.” pic.twitter.com/ESXMVMdcXH
— CNN (@CNN) May 27, 2020
Wednesday, May 27th
The Minneapolis police department revealed the names of the officers fired after the incident: Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng (via the New York Times). Mayor Frey called for prosecutors to file federal charges against the men at a press conference. “I want to see a charge take place,” he said. “I want to see justice for George Floyd.”
Thursday, May 28th
Prosecutors continued to investigate whether or not to charge Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd. The lack of action from authorities, however, accelerated protests near the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. Participants eventually set fire to the police precinct station, according to the New York Times. Protests also broke out in New York, Denver, Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio. Demonstrators also gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police while in her own home in March.
NBC reported that Chauvin had been the subject of several police-conduct reports — at least 12 since he started in 2001. Still, according to Minneapolis’ Communities United Against Police Brutality database — which has been cited in various reports on Chauvin’s record — he has received only a few verbal reprimands. Most of the complaints in the database are listed as “closed.”
Friday, May 29th
Early Friday morning, President Donald Trump denounced protesters, tweeting: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Twitter flagged the tweet with a message reading: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
This is the first time Twitter has flagged one of the president’s tweets as questionable. The move comes days after the platform added a fact-check option to some of Trump’s false tweets about mail-in voting, prompting him to threaten to close down Twitter. He then signed an executive order aimed at bolstering the government’s ability to regulate social media sites
Undeterred, the president spent the morning deriding the platform on Twitter, tweeting in the early afternoon: “The National Guard has arrived on the scene. They are in Minneapolis and fully prepared. George Floyd will not have died in vain. Respect his memory!!!”
Meanwhile, a crew of CNN reporters were arrested while covering the protests in Minneapolis. Correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos, and camera operator Leonel Mendez were taken into custody by Minnesota State Police while reporting on street closures. The journalists were released on Friday morning soon after their arrest. Minnesota’s Gov. Walz reportedly apologized to CNN President Jeff Zucker. Jimenez went back on the air shortly after his release, noting that law enforcement was “not violent” with him, and that one of the officers told him they were “just following orders.”
In the afternoon, Chauvin was taken into custody by authorities. He was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
#BREAKING: Officer Derek Chauvin has been taken into custody by state authorities, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington says.
— Theo Keith (@TheoKeith) May 29, 2020
Mayor Frey put a curfew in place Friday starting at 8 p.m. local time, extending through the weekend. “This declaration — issued pursuant to the provisions of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 12, and Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Section 128.50 — enables State resources and support to be requested as part of the City’s response, recovery and related operations,” a statement reads.
George Floyd’s family attorney Benjamin Crump told CNN that they are waiting for the final autopsy results from the medical examiner’s office but will “give him a proper funeral and also to have an independent autopsy because they do not trust…the city of Minneapolis.”
CBS reports that the Floyd family has hired former NYC chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden to do the autopsy and that Baden will do the procedure next week. Baden formerly testified at OJ Simpson’s trial and performed private autopsies on Jeffrey Epstein and Michael Brown.
Meanwhile, Trump was taken by Secret Service agents to a White House bunker as protests continued across the country.
Saturday, May 30
As protests raged across the U.S., musicians came forward in support of George Floyd and protestors.
Killer Mike spoke in Atlanta at a press conference, saying: “I’m mad as hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn yesterday, because I’m tired of seeing black men die.”
Rihanna lamented Floyd’s death on Instagram: “Watching my people get murdered and lynched day after day pushed me to a heavy place in my heart.”
Billie Eilish penned an essay in support of Black Lives Matter: “If I hear one more person say ‘aLL liVeS maTtEr’ one more fucking time I’m gonna lose my fucking mind.” Beyoncé called for justice for Floyd: “We’re broken and we’re disgusted. We cannot normalize this pain.”
Meanwhile, Trump took to Twitter to gleefully praise the Secret Service’s handling of protests at the White House and deride what he called “so-called protestors.” He also threatened protestors with “the most vicious dogs.”
Sunday, May 31
Trump started off Sunday by announcing on Twitter that antifa — a loose group of anti-fascist protestors — would be designated a “terrorist organization.” Meanwhile, the de facto Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden visited a protest site in Delaware.
Still more musicians came forward in support of Black Lives Matter and Floyd, including Dr. Dre, Lady Gaga and Jay-Z, who called Minnesota Governor Tim Walz directly. Walz also announced that State’s Attorney General Keith Ellison will head up any prosecutions connected to Floyd’s death, taking over the case from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
“I, along with an entire country in pain, call upon AG Ellison to do the right thing and prosecute all those responsible for the murder of George Floyd to the fullest extent of the law,” Jay-Z said in a later statement. “This is just a first step. I am more determined to fight for justice than any fight my would-be oppressors may have.”
For his part, Walz called Floyd’s death a murder in a press conference Sunday and said he would like to see charged filed against all officers involved.
The music industry is currently calling for a “blackout” on Tuesday in honor of Floyd. “As gatekeepers of the culture, it’s our responsibility to not only come together to celebrate the wins, but also hold each other up during loss,” reads the statement.
Sunday evening, the White House went dark — nearly all external lights extinguished.
Monday, June 1
An independent autopsy conducted by Dr. Allecia M. Wilson of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, showed that Floyd died from asphyxiation. The autopsy, conducted at the behest of Floyd’s family, further indicated that the man died as a result of the knee former officer Derek Chauvin lodged in his neck — as well as because other officers held him down.
Soon after, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the death of George Floyd a homicide. It lists his cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” while adding Floyd “experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s).” It also states “other significant conditions” that could have contributed to Floyd’s death as heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo instituted a curfew in New York City from 11 p.m. local time Monday to 5 a.m.
President Trump announced plans to mobilize the military to violently crack down on protestors, then visited Washington, D.C.’s historic St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op with a Bible. His path was cleared of protestors by law enforcement wielding tear gas and flash-bang grenades.
Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., was outraged. “I’m outraged,” she told the Washington Post. “I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop.”
We are followers of Jesus. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. We stand with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd through the sacred act of peaceful protest.
— Mariann Budde (@Mebudde) June 2, 2020
Tuesday, June 2
While the music industry engaged in a blackout, musicians from Jay-Z to Gary Clark Jr. continued to speak out against police brutality. Meanwhile, the state of Minnesota filed a human rights complaint against the Minneapolis Police Department and six Atlanta cops were charged with excessive force during a recent protest arrest.
New York City imposed a curfew on citizens for the first time since 1943 when New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia locked down Harlem after a white NYPD officer shot a black U.S. Army soldier. The 8 p.m. curfew currently extends through the upcoming weekend.
Wednesday, June 3
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will charge the three other ex-police officers involved in George Floyd’s death and upgrade the charges against Derek Chauvin — the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck — to second-degree murder. The other three will now be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Former President Barack Obama addressed protests in a livestream later that evening, saying: “There is a change in mindset that’s taking place. A greater recognition that we can do better. And that is not a consequence of speeches by politicians… That’s a direct result of the activities and organizing and mobilization and engagement of so many young people.”
Thursday, June 4
Minneapolis local officials announced that they planned for vote Friday to overhaul the police department. City Council President Lisa Bender tweeted that they will “dismantle” the agency and “replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.”
Friday, June 5
The Minneapolis City Council “approved the terms of a stipulation for a temporary restraining order today outlining immediate changes that must be implemented by the Minneapolis Police Department and a framework for systemic change as part of the long-term investigation underway by Minnesota Department of Human Rights,” according to a release.
The order includes a list of measures that the city and police department must implement immediately, including the banning of neck restraints of chokeholds within 10 days of the order. It also states that all members of the MPD must report any unauthorized force they see while on the scene — they must also safely intervene. If they don’t do so, they will be “subject to discipline to the same severity as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force.” From now on, only the police chief or “the chief’s designee at the rank of deputy chief or above” will be able to authorize the use of crowd control weapons during protests.
Sunday, June 7
Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council pledged Sunday to dismantle the police department in hopes of creating a new system.
City Council controls the budget for the police, but Mayor Jacob Frey does have the power to veto their decisions. Still, Council members said they had enough votes to override the Mayor should he veto. Saturday, Frey was booed out of a rally for saying he did not believe in defunding the police.
This story is developing…