Say his name. George Floyd. He was a human being.




A mural of George Floyd in Mauerpark in Berlin. Public domain photo.

His name is George Floyd.

He was a human being.

He was 46 years old.

He was a human being.

He was a black man.

He was a human being.

He was a father with a six-year-old girl.

He was a human being.

A native of Houston, he was a star athlete in high school. He moved to Minneapolis in 2014, after a stint in prison for armed robbery, to start a new life.

He was a human being.

He worked security at a local restaurant until it was closed by Minnesota’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

He was a human being.

Those who knew him well called him Floyd.

He was a human being.

george floyd
A photograph of George Floyd at the George Floyd Memorial in Minneapolis. Photo by Lorie Shaull | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

On May 25, Floyd was arrested and handcuffed by Minneapolis police for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a local deli. 

He was a human being.

After a brief struggle, he was forced into the back seat of a police cruiser.

He was a human being.

Moments later, he was pulled from the vehicle by a police officer named Derek Chauvin, a 44-year-old white man who’s faced 17 complaints over the past two decades. Chauvin pushed him to the ground, still handcuffed, and with the help of two other officers pinned Floyd face down on the pavement, as a fourth officer looked on. 

He was a human being.

As Floyd lay prone, Chauvin pressed his left knee to Floyd’s neck, according to Hennepin County prosecutor’s complaint filed against Chauvin.

He was a human being.

Over the course of the next nearly nine minutes, Floyd told the officers at least 16 times, “I can’t breathe.”

He was a human being.

One of the officers called an ambulance.

He was a human being.

At some point, one of Chauvin’s fellow officers asked Floyd what he wanted, then added, “Well, get up and get in the car, man.”

He was a human being.

Floyd responded, “I can’t move,” before letting out a loud, guttural groan.

He was a human being.

The same officer, as if trying to provoke Floyd, told him to “Get up and get in the car,” even though Chauvin still had his knee on him.

He was a human being.

Gasping for air, Floyd cried out to his late mother: “Mama, I’m through.”

He was a human being.

Nearly six minutes after Chauvin first pressed his knee into his neck, Floyd lost consciousness, his body went limp.

He was a human being.

A female bystander yelled to Chauvin, “Get off of him!” Chauvin ignored the woman’s angry plea.

He was a human being.

A second bystander told Chauvin, “Bro, he’s not fucking moving.”

He was a human being. 

The first bystander asked, “Did they kill him, bro?”

He was a human being.

Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd for nearly 9 minutes
Screenshot via Facebook

One of Chauvin’s fellow officers asked him if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin said no and kept his knee pressed to Floyd’s neck for nearly three more minutes.

He was a human being.

Before those three minutes had passed, an ambulance arrived and a paramedic checked Floyd’s pulse, but Chauvin didn’t remove his knee until asked by the paramedic to do so.

He was a human being.

For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Chauvin’s knee was pressed against Floyd’s neck.

He was a human being.

Floyd was loaded unconscious into the ambulance and the paramedics sped away. Floyd went into full cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, where he arrived without a pulse. Some 90 minutes after his initial encounter with the Minneapolis police officers Floyd was pronounced dead.

He was a human being.

His name was George Floyd. 

He was a black man in America.

Say his name. 

George Floyd.

He was a human being.

This description of the sequence of events leading to Floyd’s death and presented in this article is primarily based on a video timeline compiled by The New York Times.

James E. Garcia
James E. Garcia is a journalist, playwright and communications consultant. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona, which covers Latino news statewide. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught writing, ethnic studies, theater and Latino politics at ASU. He is the producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co. and the author of more than 30 plays.