(TMU) Opinion – Following the tragic killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the friends and family of the 46-year-old are stepping forward to let the community know exactly who the man was before he came to public attention as yet another unfortunate victim of police brutality.
From his family to his former employer, the bereaved people close to Floyd depict a man who comes across as a dignified and kind individual, always helpful and typically with a calm, peaceful demeanor.
Floyd’s cousins in his hometown of Houston are in a state of shock and devastation over the loss of “everybody’s favorite” relative, as they described him to KHOU. Tera Brown, a cousin of Floyd, said:
“It’s unbelievable, unbelievable to see someone suffer in the way that he did … He was everybody’s favorite everything, favorite friend and favorite cousin.”
Goerge’s brother, Philonise Floyd, also wept as he told CBS News.
“Just thinking just how amazing my brother was. He never did anything to nobody. Everybody loved my brother. I just don’t understand why people want to hurt people, kill people. They didn’t have to do that to my brother … Hearing him holler over and over, he can’t breathe, he can’t breathe. Nobody don’t want to hear that.”
Jovanni and Ruth Thunstrom employed Floyd for years at the Conga Latin Bistro, where he not only worked security but also helped around the bar and “got along with everyone.” Since Floyd’s death began flooding social media and news streams on Monday, the two have been in heavy mourning about their lost friend.
Jovanni told KMSP:
“Crying all day… [Ruth] loved Floyd. We’re all sad … Every time I see it, I hurt. It’s one thing to be told it’s someone getting killed, another to see someone you know who doesn’t deserve to have their life end that way.”
Jovanni also told KSTP Eyewitness News that Floyd was universally loved by the people who knew him. He explained:
“Because he, he wasn’t only an employee. He was my friend. He was my tenant. He was someone that, everyone here loves him. And to watch that video, it was hard to watch.”
Floyd was also somebody who was happy to go out of his way to help folks, including those he had just met. Jovanni added:
“(He) even drove a person that was intoxicated home. He’s the type of guy that if you need help, and if he can, he will help you.”
Floyd was also interested in learning new things. Most recently, he had shown an interest in Latino culture and was looking to learn how to dance.
“He wanted me to teach him how to Bachata dance,” Jovanni said. “And I gave up because I couldn’t turn him because he was 6’6.”
Floyd also had a very dear friend and brother in Stephen Jackson, a longtime former NBA player and ESPN analyst who is in deep mourning over a man he considered his “twin.”
Floyd was a former star athlete himself for a time, who played on the 1993 Texas state champion football team as a starter, rotated tight end and wide receiver.
Jackson, a former San Antonio Spurs Forward, has been pouring his heart out on his social media accounts recounting stories about his good friend Floyd. Both called Houston their hometown.
In one of several posts, Jackson wrote:
“Where we from not many make it out but my Twin was happy I did. I’m gonna continue to made u proud fam. It makes me so angry that after all the things u been through when u get to your best self that they take u out like this.”
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All u wanted to do was stay fly and be great. This pic tore me down. Called me with pics of the outfits laid across the bed showing how he was gonna kill them with the clothes I sent him. Boxes in the background 😥😥😥. It meant the world to him but meant the world to me how he wanted the world to know that we called each other twin. Nobody was more proud of my growth and my fatherhood more than #BigFloydDaGod. We will get justice. They will be writing a big check for your kids on behalf of Minnesota Police Dept. and u can bet dat Jack. Rest Easy Twin u wasn’t suppose to make it through the life u had change for the better then go out like this. Fuk dat.
In another post, the All The Smoke podcast co-host hinted that his “twin” needed to leave Houston to forge a better path in life. Jackson wrote:
“Twin couldn’t wait to tell me he moved to Minnesota to work and drive trucks. He knew he had to relocate to be his best self. His heart was in the right place. Rest Easy Bro … All we talked about was growing and kids. Love to all who have love for all.”
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Twin couldn’t wait to tell me he moved to Minnesota to work and drive trucks. He knew he had to relocate to be his best self. His ❤️ was in the right place. Rest Easy Bro we gonna hold it down yo voice. All we talked about was growing and kids. Love to all who have love for all ✊🏿✊🏼✊🏽✊🏻✊🏾✊
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These days the only crime U get killed for is Being Black. Rest Easy Twin. Starting tight end 92. Made it to state championship. Bruh wasn’t no bum. Had hoop game too. U will know who Floyd was. Nobodies perfect but Floyd was loved by everybody when he’s friends wasn’t. Just the facts u gotta be from HTown to know what I’m saying. Rest Easy Twin we riding for ya.
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The love is diff when u really wanna see your brother win. Twin was really living through me. He was talented in 2 sports and the difference between me and bro was I had more opportunity than he did. 2 things we have in common both from the bottom and both of our names will live forever. U will remember the name George Floyd. Love u twin. Rest Easy. Love to all who have love for all ✊🏿✊🏻✊🏾✊🏼✊🏽✊. I mean that
Courteney Ross, who described herself to WCCO as his “better half,” also said that he was a “gentle giant” who was “friendly to everybody,” and had moved out to Minneapolis in search of a “fresh start.” She explained:
“He stood up for people, he was there for people when they were down, he loved people that were thrown away. We prayed over every meal, we prayed if we were having a hard time, we prayed if we were having a good time.”
Floyd was also extraordinarily close to his mother, who passed away roughly a year ago. In the heartbreaking footage of Officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, ultimately killing him, Floyd can be heard begging for his mother. Ross believes that his “mother’s spirit” was with him at the time when he passed.
Jovanni was sickened by the video he saw of a beloved friend being treated like he was less than human.
“They just treated him like some kind of animal, like a dog, like he’s going to bite you, pin him down and step on him. He didn’t deserve that,” he said.
“Floyd, he wasn’t the bad guy. He had other problems, but we all have problems. He wasn’t the type that was aggressive, disrespectful. He was very calm, nice guy. I want people to remember him that way.”
the now lifeless subject of your command and control policing ,
the human being under your brutal knee.
— 𝐑𝐞𝐯. 𝐂𝐨𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐖𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐚𝐦 𝐁𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 (@CornellWBrooks) May 26, 2020
The depictions clash with the Minneapolis Police Department’s depictions of an unruly “suspect” who allegedly “physically resisted officers” in the events preceding his killing, as they claimed in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
CCTV footage from the arrest, however, clearly showed Floyd being calmly detained by police without putting up a struggle.
Unfortunately, it’s become routine in the United States that when people are killed by law enforcement they have no opportunity to simply “rest in peace.” Instead, their families and loved ones are left in a shattered emotional state, saddled with not only grief but funeral costs, legal processes, and the pressures of a system that seeks to make the murder of their loved ones appear “justifiable” to the public.
As the Stolen Lives Project notes: “The victims of police violence were part of our society, but rarely are their lives or names publicized, or the real circumstances surrounding their deaths investigated and made known.”
To make matters worse, police and law enforcement officials – often with the assistance of mainstream media – routinely subject victims of police brutality to character assassination and villificaion. For Black and brown victims of the police, the slander can take the form of racist depictions of the deceased as being prone to criminality and thus “deserving” of death at the hands of police due to their style of dress or because of some old criminal records.
Common problems encountered by Americans ranging from past drug use to troubled relationships, a history of mental illness, a lapse in child support payments, or even simply residing in poor neighborhoods stereotyped as hotbeds of crime are seen as “fair game” when it comes to the dehumanization of police brutality victims. As a result, the victim is transformed into a villain while the murderer is cast as a victim acting out of supposed necessity.
Rarely, however, are we given the details of the tender, loving, decent – and yes, complicated – human beings who are unjustly killed at the hands of law enforcement.