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A year on, Floyd's 'I can't breathe' plea haunts US
By:China Daily Global
update:May 28,2021
May 28, 2021 -- Tuesday is the first anniversary of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Before dying, Floyd pleaded "I can't breathe" more than 20 times, but the police paid no heed.
The words have hung heavy in the air the past year, reverberating in months of protests against police brutality and racial injustice across the United States and around the world.
People strode into George Floyd Square, the renamed intersection where Floyd died in Minneapolis, where they laid flowers and paid their respect.
The moment was marred when multiple gunshots were heard near the square, just hours before a family-friendly street festival would mark the anniversary. One person was shot with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
A few kilometers away, dozens of people knelt around a steel fist sculpture for the 9 minutes, 29 seconds during which Floyd was pinned down.
Outside the White House, President Joe Biden privately met with Floyd's siblings and daughter on Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of people carried "Stop Killing Us" and "Rest in Peace George Floyd" banners. They put down single long-stemmed roses in a semicircle, bowed their heads and observed a moment of silence to commemorate Floyd.
Some Black Lives Matter protesters on Tuesday morning marched through downtown New York City streets and blocked an entrance to the Holland Tunnel before being removed by police, local media reported.
The "Rise and Remember George Floyd" events, including protests, candlelight vigils, panel discussions and artwork displays, were observed in the cities of Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and Seattle in the days ahead of or on the anniversary itself.
Floyd's "I can't breathe" plea "was a sentimental statement ... that I felt resonated with everyone," said Jenne Henry, a student from Washington.
Around 20 million US citizens flouting coronavirus restrictions joined some 7,750 demonstrations in more than 2,440 locations across every US state in the wake of Floyd's death last summer, the biggest racial justice protests in generations, data from The Economist weekly showed.
Derek Chauvin, the former white police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck, was convicted of murder in April. Three other fired officers still face trial later in the year. Separate federal charges have also been filed against all the police officers involved.
'Tip of iceberg'
Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Wednesday that the tragedy of Floyd was just the tip of the iceberg of racism in the US, as its own leaders had admitted earlier that hatred and racism are "ugly poisons" plaguing US society.
"The US should mind its own business, solve its own problems, provide security for its people and let them have the right to be free from discrimination and fear. It should not always try to spread lies and false information against other countries, stir up trouble everywhere and interfere in others' internal affairs," he said.
In the wake of Floyd's death, more than 30 US states enacted new policing rules such as banning neck restraints and requiring police officers to intervene when another officer uses extreme force, media reported.
Major changes appear to have stalled though. Police reform legislation, known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, is mired in the evenly split Senate amid fierce partisan fights. Democrat and Republican lawmakers are sparring when it comes to banning chokeholds, no-knock warrants and qualified immunity given to police.
The White House previously set a deadline for Congress to pass the bill before the one-year anniversary of Floyd's death, which apparently has not been met.
In fact, the "I can't breathe" plea did not prevent more police violence from happening. Through the first four months this year, police officers continued to kill about three Americans per day on average, virtually the same as before Floyd's murder, said a report by news portal Politico.
As many as 89 African Americans were killed by police this year through May 21, the report said, noting black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, and 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed when killed by police.
Xinhua, Ai Heping in New York and agencies contributed to this story.
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