Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…
The press release told the story: There was a suspect “under the influence.” Two officers arrive and order the suspect in his 40s to get out of his car. The suspect was handcuffed and appeared to be suffering medical distress. An ambulance was called. He was taken to a local hospital where he died a short time later.
This was the press release the Minneapolis Police Department sent out on May 25, 2020 in regards to an incident at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street. We know that story as the police encounter where George Floyd died. However, the press release tells the story somewhat differently:
There is just one problem with this story: it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t even tell a quarter of the story.
We know it doesn’t tell the whole story for one reason: there were witnesses. A number of people of all ages and ethnicities stood nearby. Some yelled for the police, especially Derek Chauvin, to stop harassing George Floyd. An off-duty EMT begged the officers to check Floyd’s pulse when he became unresponsive. A teenager with a smartphone, Darnella Frazier, took the video that has been the most widely seen: that of then-Officer Chauvin pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck. Because there were witnesses that saw what happened, they became witnesses to a crime that led to Mr. Chauvin’s conviction.
Being a witness is risky and comes with a cost. The people who watched as George Floyd was slowly being killed have had to deal with the shock of watching this horror and also the guilt of wondering if they should have done more to stop it. Some didn’t want to come…