The world collectively held its breath as millions across the globe watched the disturbing video footage of 46-year-old George Floyd dying. He was slowly suffocated to death by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who pinned him to the ground.
The officer used his knee to hold Floyd down by the neck. The knee-to-neck restraint is banned in many US states. Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” and crying out for his mother as he is asphyxiated and eventually dies. It took 8 minutes and 46 seconds to kill him.
Floyd allegedly paid for food using a counterfeit $20 bill. It is unclear if he was aware that the bill was counterfeit or not.
Chauvin is now facing a charge of third-degree murder.
The event has triggered a renewed series of riots and protests across America, and this has filtered down to South Africa as citizens feel that police brutality is becoming a prominent problem.
During the lockdown, the South African government has come to rely heavily on the police – as well as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) – to ensure citizens adhere to social distancing regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19. In this period, it is alleged that at least four people have died at the hands of police officers or SANDF members.
– Collins Khosa who was believed to be assaulted by both SANDF and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers during lockdown. He was throttled, hit with the butt of a machine gun and slammed into a steel gate.
– Sibusiso Amos is believed to have been shot by police while sitting on the verandah of his home during lockdown.
– Petrus Miggles, who was believed to have been brutally assaulted by police when he was caught illegally purchasing beer during lockdown. His knuckles were smashed using a hammer before being forced into a police vehicle. Shortly thereafter, he was dropped off where he was picked up, and died as he reached home. It is not confirmed what happened in the police vehicle.
– Adane Emmanuel was accused of illegally selling cigarettes during lockdown, and was assaulted by police. He was arrested thereafter, and was kept in police custody for several hours before he was released on bail. He was driven to a clinic by police but died before he could receive treatment.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele has denied that South Africa has a police brutality problem on several occasions, and maintains that the force exerted by police is relative to the resistance of the suspect. This has become a factor in South Africans rising up to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, as many believe what is happening in America is becoming a reality here.