The Rev. Al Sharpton, Eric Garner’s mother and City Council President Andrea Jenkins told a crowd gathered Thursday near the site where George Floyd died in Minneapolis that they stand with community members demanding justice and prosecution of the police involved.
That should start with the immediate arrest of the four officers, Sharpton said.
“In order to get an arrest, all you need is probable cause. … Then a grand jury decides if there is an indictment,” Sharpton said. “You don’t need anything more then you have now to arrest those folks … You have a deceased person … You have a tape showing how he (became) deceased. … They should tell those four police what they tell all the people in the hood: ‘Tell it to the judge.’”
Sharpton went on to say that while he is nonviolent, he did not come to Minneapolis to address riots or any violence that broke out in response to Floyd’s death.
“The violence I am addressing is how a man could hold a man down with his knee on his neck for nine minutes. … The violence started on this corner when (Floyd) was choking and begging for his life,” Sharpton said. “We are not asking for a favor. We are asking for what is right.”
Sharpton said he planned to stay in town to attend Floyd’s funeral services at the request of his family and called on people across the country to come together to be part of a national “We Can’t Breathe movement” that would kick off Saturday.
Floyd, a black man, repeatedly told Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, that he couldn’t breathe while the officer kept his knee pinned against Floyd’s neck as Floyd lay handcuffed and face-down on the ground on Monday.
The incident — which took place after Floyd allegedly attempted to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a gas station and resisted arrest — was caught on video by a bystander.
“I Can’t Breathe” became a rallying cry after another black man, Eric Garner, was put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer while Garner was resisting arrest for selling single cigarettes from packs in 2014.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, but a grand jury decided not to indict the officer.
Garner’s family eventually received a $5.9 million settlement from the city, and the officer was subsequently fired in 2019, five years after Garner died.
His mother, Gwen Carr, recalled the persistence it took to secure the officer’s termination while speaking in Minneapolis on Thursday, saying she was told by several people along the way that the time had come to give up.
“I (said) ‘You may not go forward, but I am,’ and that is what you must do because this is not going to be an easy fight,” she told the crowd.
While Minneapolis has “everyone with you now,” she warned that “a lonely road” is ahead.
“Don’t let this (just) be another news story. … We all have to get out and stand together and we don’t have to do it violently. We can do it politically,” Carr said. “Don’t sit around and say, ‘My vote don’t count.’ We put these politicians in and we can take them out.”
Jenkins joined Sharpton and Carr at the gathering hours after speaking with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo at a press conference.
She opened her remarks at the earlier press conference by singing “Amazing Grace” as an offering of grace to Floyd’s family before telling media gathered that Floyd’s death felt for the black community “as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks that says black life does not matter to the institutions that dictate what happens in this culture and society.”
While understanding and supporting the collective grief and outrage that people felt about his death, and the persistent “disease” of racism, she said looting, arson and violence were not acceptable means to express those emotions.
She alluded to those sentiments again when she spoke to the crowd gathered at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue on Thursday afternoon.
“We are going to fight for our streets and we are going to fight for justice for George,” she said.
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