Years ago, in Staten Island, Eric Garner, a black man, was choked to death, suffocated by a police officer. His mother still suffers the indignity that the officer was never prosecuted. 

The same thing happened to George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

Four policemen, with people watching, choked George to death, by kneeling on his neck, ignoring his final plea, now much-publicized, when he said, “I cannot breathe.”

George allegedly bought some cigarettes at Cup Foods in Minneapolis, at 8:08 pm, and the storekeeper insisted that George used a counterfeit $20 bill.

George was parked just around the corner from the store.

At about 8:14 pm, Officers Kueng and Lane walked George toward the squad car.

Officer Derek Chauvin arrived on the scene with another officer, Tou Thoa.

Chauvin was involved in an earlier fatal shooting and the subject of at least 17 complaints in his nearly twenty years with the department.

Chauvin and Lane and Chueng tried to get George into the squad car on the passenger side.

At 8:19:38 pm, Chauvin pulled George out of the passenger side of the car, and George was cuffed behind his back, so George fell to the ground flat on his face.

Chauvin put his knee in the area of George’s head and neck. Kueng held George’s back. Lane held his legs.  There was nothing George could do. He was immobile and in pain.

George said, “I can’t breathe.” He repeated, “I can’t breathe.”

He called for his “Mama.” She had died years earlier.

He said, “Please.”

None of the four officers at the scene moved to release the pressure.

One picture of Chauvin that’s circulated looks posed like Chauvin was getting a trophy photo to put up on the police locker room for bragging rights, for his abuse of George.

Lane asked, “Should we roll him on his side?”

Chauvin said, “Staying put, where we got him.”

Lane said, “I’m worried about delirium or whatever.”

Neither Lane nor Chueng did anything to end the torture they inflicted on George.

Chauvin said, “That’s why we have him on his stomach.”

At 8:24 pm, George moved no more.

About 5 minutes later, these three officers placed George in this torturous immobile contortion that denied him the air he needed – as he told them was the case – until he finally had no breath to talk.

Kueng checked George’s pulse and found none.

Still, no officer moved him.

These three officers continued to hold George down, and another officer looked on.

Chauvin held his knee in place until 8:27:34 pm.

George was dead at the scene, but they reported his death at the hospital.

Chauvin had his knee on George’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds; Chauvin kept his knee in place for two minutes and 53 seconds after Chauvin was unresponsive. 

This was murder plain and simple.

A horrible act seen by the nation – only because of the people, the bystanders, who recorded the event on smartphones.

A delay to act, to charge all four officers, too long a time without any official response, was rightly understood as intolerable indifference.

Protest was inevitable when men and women fear for their lives because their skin color is deemed sufficient to be violated or killed with impunity by a police officer.

Our nation, in the protests since, has recoiled from these offenses against humanity.

Other nation-states around the world have protested in agreement with our revulsion.

The early signs for these protests take us back to Charlottesville, when a racist and anti-Semitic mob marched with torches, backed by militia, hurling hateful slogans.

Trump nevertheless said he saw some good people on both sides of those demonstrations.

Presumably, even the racist who drove his car into a woman, killing her.

Trump did once lecture police not to be “so nice” when arresting someone.

Healing, coming together, in this “new reconstruction” of our nation, requires more than “thoughts and prayers.”

Mr. Trump and AG Bill Barr, in response to the DC protests, and outside the Capitol, have preferred an armed force and police violence in the street to disperse protesters to clear Lafayette Park so Trump could have a photo op using a bible as a prop.

Mr. Trump and AG Bill Barr have tried to discredit legitimate protest insisting there is some phantom unseen and unconfirmed interference in these protests, as cover for their police state suppression of free speech and reform.

In terms of reform, the Minneapolis Town Council concluded its police force was beyond repair, had to be torn up root and branch, and are replacing the “force” with a community-led model. 

There are congressional proposals to outlaw chokeholds, to do away with immunity, qualified or otherwise, for police who have abused their authority to commit acts of violence.

We’ve known at least since the Kerner Commission 50 years ago what is wrong – it’s bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and more…

The Kerner Commission concluded what remains true today, “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

It is our duty to see what poet Langston Hughes feared, “a dream deferred,” that we see to it that it be deferred no longer and that we not let the dream “dry up like a raisin in the sun” or “fester like a sore.”