Former President Barack Obama Reacts to George Floyd’s Death

Getty In this screen-grab, Former President Barack Obama speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16, 2020.

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement on the death of George Floyd on Twitter on May 29. The statement acknowledges that “[i]t’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal,'” but “we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’.”

“It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done,” Obama writes. “But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station – including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day – to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions and our hearts.”

George Floyd died in Minneapolis shortly after Officer Derek Chauvin forced Floyd to the ground and pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck. Photos and videos of the arrest have circulated online, prompting widespread condemnation. Chauvin and three other officers were fired from their posts for the incident and formal legal action is underway.


The Death of George Floyd Has Sparked Calls for Action Around the Country

 

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In a press conference on Friday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said that he expected “that justice for the officers involved in this will be swift, that it will come in a timely manner, that it will be fair,” according to CNN.

In an interview with CNN, Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, said, “My story will never change. Everybody’s reacting off of pain. Black men dying every day. They’re tired of seeing the same thing every day. Everyone wants justice. Justice for black people, black lives matter.” He continued, “I want justice, and I’m not going to stop until I get the death penalty for those officers.”

Obama’s statement also referenced the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the episode in Central Park in which a white woman threatened to call the police on Christian Cooper, a black man birding in the park. Both of these incidents have made national news, sparking calls for justice and action.

The statement did not directly comment on the protests that have gripped cities around the country since Floyd’s death on May 26. The National Guard was called to curb protests in Minneapolis, where looting and arson have taken place. Protests have cropped up in other cities, including Denver, Columbus, New York City, St. Louis, Phoenix, and Memphis. According to CNN, at least 72 people were arrested at protests in New York City. These protests come as social distancing guidelines are still in place around the country.


Numerous Celebrities and Public Figures Have Spoken Out Against the Killing

 

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George Floyd’s death has prompted numerous celebrities and public figures to speak out against the killing. Beyoncé posted a tribute to Floyd on her website, Kim Kardashian tweeted #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd, and Lebron James posted a photo to Instagram in a t-shirt that reads, “I Can’t Breath” as a testament to some of Floyd’s last words. The Dalai Lama also referenced Floyd’s death in a virtual teaching on Friday, saying, “We see in the news channels, the media about discrimination on the basis of color or religion these days, and then there is killing due to that, and then there are some who even take it as a pride to be able to kill somebody,” according to CNN.

In a tweet, First Lady Melania Trump expressed, “[m]y deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd,” adding, “Our country allows for peaceful protest, but there is no reason for violence.” Also in a tweet, Trump called commented on George Floyd’s killing, calling his death “very sad and tragic.”


In 2013, Obama Gave a Moving Speech About Racial Injustice After the Death of Trayvon Martin

In 2013, Obama delivered a speech ahead of the jury decision in the case surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death. Martin was a 17-year-old black teenager who was killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. Martin’s death sparked a national outcry. Here is a section of that speech:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.  And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.  There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often.

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