There are four images from the George Floyd video I can’t unsee. I can’t unsee the police officer’s apathetic face while a man was dying beneath him. I can’t unsee George Floyd’s distressed face while he was being killed by a man over him.
I can’t unsee the police officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck even after Floyd laid voiceless and lifeless on the ground. And I can’t unsee the police officer’s hands in his pockets the entire time.
It’s distressing to watch a man die. And it’s devastating to watch a man die by the callous hands—or knee—of a person who was supposed to serve and protect him.
And that is partly why thousands of people have been protesting and rioting over the last two nights in Minneapolis.
Three days ago in Minneapolis, four police officers responded to a 911 call about a fraud in process. The suspect, George Floyd, was apparently intoxicated while he attempted to purchase a meal at a local deli with a counterfeit $20 bill.
When police officers arrived on the scene, Floyd was apparently inside his car. And according to Minneapolis Police, Floyd physically resisted the police officers before they placed him in handcuffs, and they also claim they called for an ambulance after they noticed Floyd appeared to be suffering medical distress.
That could be true. It’s not impossible to believe that perhaps Floyd physically resisted arrest. It’s not impossible to believe that perhaps Floyd was suffering from medical distress. However, video recordings do not reveal Floyd physically resisted arrest, nor do they show he was suffering from medical distress other than the distress inflicted on him by the police officers.
We do not have access to every detail between the time police officers arrived on the scene and the time when the paramedics arrived on scene. The video recordings especially do not show what happened between Floyd and the police officers right before three police officers pinned Floyd facedown to the ground, including one police officer, whose knee pressed on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes while Floyd begged:
“I’m about to die…Please, the knee in my neck, I can’t breathe…Mama!…My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts…Don’t kill me.”
Bystanders also begged the police officer to stop. They refused. The bystanders also warned the police officers their actions might kill Floyd. But the police officers didn’t relent—even after Floyd became voiceless and lifeless.
The next day, Minneapolis’ police chief fired the four police officers involved in the incident. And the scene of the incident has become the centre for protests and riots in Minneapolis over the last two nights.
What makes George Floyd’s killing especially disturbing to me, is that unlike most recordings of people who get unjustly killed by police officers, Floyd’s distressed face and distressed words are so clearly seen and so clearly heard before he dies.
As I suggested earlier, we do not have access to everything that happened on the scene. Nevertheless, given much of the footage and information available, it’s difficult to imagine any justification for the police officers’ actions. That is, after all, why Minneapolis’ police chief fired the four police officers.
And I’m glad Minneapolis’ Police Department asked the FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate the incident—an investigation that will surely lead to charges against one of or all the police officers involved.
However, we should remember God gives us freedom to grieve—he gives us freedom to be angry. But he doesn’t give us freedom to sin while we are grieving and while we are angry.
Just as George Floyd’s apparent unjust attempt to defraud the deli doesn’t justify the police officers’ unjust actions against him, the police officers’ sins do not justify our sins either. We will all be accountable to God for our unjust and sinful actions.
Some citizens in Minneapolis are using the injustice against George Floyd as justification for their own unjust, destructive actions. They are using Floyd’s killing to sin—they are rioting, stealing, assaulting others, and destroying property. We shouldn’t be like them. We shouldn’t react with unjust, destructive behaviour on social media either. If we’re angry by the police officers’ unrighteous behaviour, we shouldn’t react in an unrighteous manner too.
Therefore, we shouldn’t make any conclusions about the incident—including the police officer’s motivations and George Floyd’s character— if it isn’t explicit in the video recordings.
Those of us who reject social justice ideology might be tempted to allow the opportunism and foolishness of others to cloud our own judgment. But we shouldn’t allow those who cry wolf to make us deaf to real, genuine growls of wolves.
And you’ve probably noticed I haven’t mentioned the police officers’ skin colour and especially, Floyd’s skin colour. I haven’t mentioned George Floyd was a black man. I haven’t mentioned the police officers apparently consisted of one white man, one Asian man, one brown man, and one black man. I haven’t mentioned that Derek Chauvin, the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck, is a white man.
I didn’t mention that because when I watched the horrific video, I didn’t see a black man—just like me—unjustly killed by a white police officer. I simply saw a human—just like me—unjustly killed by police officers.
That doesn’t mean George Floyd wasn’t a victim of racism. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know. All I know is: four people like me apparently unjustly killed another person like me.
I look forward to the day when I won’t have to see this anymore. And I especially I look forward to the day when Jesus won’t have to see this anymore—when he returns to execute perfect justice.