Why has the death of George Floyd sparked protests?

Story by CBC Kids News • Published 2020-05-29 17:00
UPDATE: On June 3, three of the police officers who were at the scene of George Floyd's death were charged with aiding and abetting a murder. The officer who pressed his knee into Floyd's neck had his charges upgraded to second-degree murder.

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“I’m a young black man,” sings 12-year-old gospel singer Keedron Bryant, and “I just want to live.”

Keedron’s song, which was posted Tuesday on multiple platforms, has become a bit of an anthem for people concerned about anti-black racism in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Bryant, who was a recent contestant on NBC’s kid talent show Little Big Shots, posted his song in response to the death of a man named George Floyd.

Floyd’s death has sparked protests, given that he's the latest unarmed black man to be killed in recent years.

Instagram post by keedronbryant says just singing what's on my heart... hope this blesses someone

What happened?

Floyd, a 46-year-old nightclub security guard from Houston, died in Minneapolis on Monday after a police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.

“Please, I can’t breathe,” Floyd is heard saying in a cellphone video of the incident that quickly went viral.

The four police officers involved were fired.

Officer arrested and charged

The officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck was arrested on Friday and now faces third-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

The incident has sparked massive protests in Minneapolis, including the destruction of a police station that was set on fire on Thursday.

A construction site burns.

Multiple fires burned in Minneapolis this week, including at this construction site near a police station. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

On being black in America

A number of high-profile Americans have turned to social media as a place to vent their rage over Floyd’s death.

“We have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal,’” tweeted former U.S. president Barack Obama.

“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America,” he said.

"Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday.

Protesters line up on one side of the street with police officers on the other. Most people wearing masks.

Protests have spread outside of Minneapolis. Here, protesters and police clash in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

A lesson for Canadians

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chimed in with a reminder for Canadians on Friday.

“Even though this is taking place in the United States, Canada is not free of discrimination and racism,” he said. “We have to do better.”

Anti-racism activists have started to organize rallies and online vigils in Canada to protest Floyd’s death and raise awareness about similar stories closer to home.

Facebook post from Black Lives Matter - Toronto says: George Floyd! Say his name!

Trump vs. Twitter

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump called Floyd's death a "very, very sad event.”

But his tone changed as the protests in Minneapolis grew to include people setting fires and stealing from stores.

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump wrote in an early Friday morning tweet.

That prompted a warning from Twitter that the tweet breaks the platform’s rules about glorifying violence.

Tweet from Donald Trump says: These thugs are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd and I won't let that happen. Any difficulty and we will assume control but when the looting starts the shooting starts. Note from Twitter says This tweet violated the twitter rules for glorifying violence.

National Guard troops and police officers have been stationed around Minneapolis.

In some cases, they’re using tear gas and firing rubber bullets, but no major injuries have been reported in Minneapolis so far.

With files from The Associated Press, Thomson Reuters

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