Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called on the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to slam criminal charges on the white police officer who was seen in a now-viral video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck before he passed away.
“I’ve wrestled with one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd, not in jail?” The mayor said in a press conference on Wednesday. Floyd, a Black man, died after his barbaric encounter with a white Minneapolis police officer on Monday.
“If you had done it, or I had, you’d be behind bars right now. I’m calling on the Hennepin County attorney to charge the arresting officer in this case. We cannot turn a blind eye. George Floyd deserves justice, his family deserves justice, the Black community deserves justice,” Frey said
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has not made any comment as to when the killer of George Floyd will be charged. His office only said they were “shocked and saddened” by the action of the police seen in the video while noting that the FBI and Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are investigating the incident, after which they’ll make a decision on prosecution.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of people both white and black hit the streets in Minneapolis for protest against Floyd’s death and calling on the officers involved to be charged, although all four of them have been fired.
Responding to questions about why the mayor was calling for the county to arrest and charge the officer who has been identified as Derek Chauvin, Frey said based on what he saw in the viral video, “the officer who had his knee on the neck of George Floyd should be charged.”
In the video we could see Floyd, who was unarmed and handcuffed, being held face-down by a Minneapolis police officer, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd eventually closed his eyes and stopped speaking. Police called for an ambulance and Floyd died shortly after arriving at a hospital, the Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement.
“How could I not speak out when an offense took place that you or I or many people in our city would have been behind bars if they did? Yet this particular officer was not. And by the way, Black men have been put in prison before for far, far less,” Jacob Frey said.
Protesters on Tuesday later moved from the site of Floyd’s arrest to the local police precinct, law enforcement in riot gear arrived at the scene and fired what seems to be tear gas into the crowd.
When asked about how the Mayor feels seeing the heavy law enforcement response to protesters, Frey said that he “gets the need to protest, but those rights must stop when others’ safety is put at risk,” pointing to how some police officers’ cars were busted and building glass was broken by some protester.
He said he trusted the judgment of the city’s police chief, whom he called “an exceptional leader in our Black community.” He also called on people to not “lump in” the “99%” of protesters who demonstrated peacefully with those who didn’t.
Back to why he called on the county attorney to charge the officer in this case, Jacob Frey said:
“We watched for an excruciating 5 minutes as a white officer pressed his knee into the neck of an unarmed, handcuffed Black man,” Frey said. “I saw no threat, I saw nothing that would signal that this kind of force was necessary.”
“We are not talking about a split-second decision that was made incorrectly,” the mayor added. “There’s somewhere around 300 seconds in those 5 minutes. Every one of which, the officer could have turned back. Every second of which he could have removed his knee from George Floyd’s neck.
“Every one of which he could have listened to the community around him clearly saying he needed to stop. Every one of which you heard George Floyd himself articulating the pain he was feeling, an inability to breathe. I can’t see coming to a different answer there and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to say that.”