Protests across the U.S. this week have erupted following video that showed a Minneapolis police officer kneel on a suspect’s neck for more than eight minutes as the latter pleaded for oxygen and ultimately died during the arrest.
The latest reports confirm that the deceased man, George Floyd, and the officer charged with his murder, Derek Chauvin, previously worked together as security guards at a local bar.
“He looked really different”
The bar’s owner, Maya Santamaria, told reporters she initially did not realize that the two men had worked for her. While she said she did not recognize Floyd as a former employee “because he looked really different lying there like that,” she offered some insight into the type of person Chauvin was while on the job.
“He sometimes had a real short fuse, and he seemed afraid when there was an altercation,” Santamaria recalled. “He always resorted to pulling out his mace and pepper-spraying everybody right away, even when I felt it was unwarranted.”
Although this detail in the story is noteworthy, it seems insignificant against the backdrop of a tragic death and destructive protests within Minneapolis and in several other states in recent days.
Riots erupted in Brooklyn, New York, and resulted in widespread chaos including protesters who threw a Molotov cocktail into a police van, setting it ablaze.
Renee Hall, the chief of police in Dallas, Texas, responded to escalating violence in that community, telling protesters to stop throwing rocks at officers.
“Lived his life protecting people”
Property damage has also been a major issue, with some small business owners finding their stores destroyed and looted as a result of the ongoing demonstrations.
Korboi Balla, a black Minneapolis firefighter who invested his life savings into a local bar, said he lost everything when looters targeted his business.
Law enforcement agencies and elected officials were joined by Floyd’s loved ones in calling for an end to the violence and destruction.
“Floyd would not want people to get hurt,” said his fiancee, Courteney Ross. “He lived his life protecting people. That is the truth.”
At this point, the fact that Floyd and Chauvin shared an employer for a while is little more than a footnote in a tragic incident. As protesters continue to demonstrate in an effort to ensure Floyd’s story is amplified, those taking part owe it to his loved ones to respect their wishes that his memory is not tainted by additional senseless violence.