Three racial incidents that have aroused concerns nationwide this month show the racial wound in the United States is worsening amid the coronavirus epidemic, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the country as of Wednesday.
In Minneapolis, the biggest city in the midwest state of Minnesota, George Floyd died in police custody on Monday evening shortly after a white police officer held him down with a knee on his neck though the black man in his 40s repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and “please, I can’t breathe.” The police officer’s way of handling the man is not approved by the local police department.
Several hundred protesters, chanting and carrying banners that read “I can’t breathe” marched in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening and clashed with police after a video recording the arrest of Floyd spread on social media earlier in the day, local media reported.
In 2014, a cellphone recorded an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” when a New York officer held him in a chokehold before his death in police custody. Since then, the plea has become a rallying cry at demonstrations against police misconduct across the country.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called Floyd’s death “very sad and tragic,” saying “justice will be served” in his case.
“I want to see justice for George Floyd …I want to see the charge of the arresting officer take place,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said on Wednesday.
Also on Monday in New York‘s Central Park, a black man, a bird watcher, asked a white woman to leash her dog as required by the park’s rules. The woman refused and called the police.
As the man filmed on his phone, the woman said in a rising voice to him, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.” While dialing, she repeated “African-American” to the operator twice.
The video also went viral on U.S. social media platforms, evoking intense discussions about the history of false accusations made to the police against black people, which sometimes put their lives in danger.
Within 24 hours, the white woman publicly apologized and was fired from her job, and the black man expressed regret for the extent of the retribution, a New York Times report said Wednesday. The two persons in the encounter, though in different races and without connections, even share the same surname.
The third incident happened in the southern state of Georgia where two white men fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man jogging unarmed on the street.
Arbery was shot dead in February but the gunmen, a 64-year-old father and his son, had been at large for more than two months until the video capturing the moment of the killing circulated on social media earlier this month, triggering widespread outrage over racial inequity, and leading to their arrest on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
“The death of Mr. Floyd is deeply disturbing and should be of concern to all Americans,” the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents the heads of police departments in largest U.S. cities, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Data compiled by the non-partisan APM Research Lab last week revealed that the coronavirus outbreak has aggravated racial inequality in the United States as African Americans suffer a disproportionate share of the negative health and economic outcomes from the coronavirus pandemic.
With a death toll of more than 20,000 or about one in every 2,000 of the entire U.S. black population, African Americans were dying at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans, the data showed.