Wading Through the Aftermath of George Floyd’s Death

Living at the epicenter of the George Floyd murder case has been all consuming. Since that fateful May 25, 2020 encounter with police last year, every day has had a new story. From the rioting which exploded after his death, resulting in the burning of small businesses in the immigrant community, to the destruction of sacred space of the Native American Tribes, to new food deserts in the city . . .  the impact of Floyd’s death impacts everyday life.

For the past year, newscasts have carried stories daily about our reckoning with police brutality. Police who faithfully carry out their jobs are marked by Derek Chauvin’s actions. Police morale has plummeted, with quick accusations of brutality, painting all police with the same stroke.

Adding its own new pain, the area set aide as a memorial and respected as sacred space, has been plagued in recent weeks by shootings. One cannot live in the Metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, without constantly coming to grips, with the decisions made last Memorial Day.

Since the trial started, it is even more so. If I turn on my radio, I’ll hear a local report about the trial. National news media have it front and center. My Facebook friends post updates. What most of us didn’t realize though, until the trial started, was the heavy burden of guilt and grief witnesses carry. In the first days of the trial, one person after another told of their guilt in not being able save George Floyd’s life. Some broke down in tears and sobs. A small child is traumatized by the event. Bystanders spoke of their efforts to intervene and the complete frustration of being ignored. The young cashier who accepted a counterfeit $20 bill, wishes he had never accepted it, wrongly blaming himself for what happened.

A girlfriend tells of Floyd’s Opioid addiction, which started after getting a prescription, following an injury. She first met George Floyd on a day when he was working security, and she was distressed. She was touched by Floyd’s offer to pray for her.

The defense tries to paint George Floyd as a large and dangerous man. The prosecution brings out his gentle side. Bystanders, simply know what they were seeing was wrong and felt helpless. At least two people called 911, asking for other police to come and stop it.  In Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arrandondo’s testimony today, he  lifted up the motto for the department, “To protect with courage and to serve with compassion.” 

The defense talks about an angry crowd of people, distracting the police. Those who have testified, point out they had a reason to be angry (although they are careful not to use the word). The city is on edge and anxious with protestors on various sides, kept apart. Brokenness is all around us.

In all of it, faith leaders in the Minneapolis – St. Paul metropolitan area ask for our prayers.

“Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4