MATTHEWS: George Floyd’s death was senseless, tragic — and so was what followed

Protesters sparked by the death of George Floyd move along Elm Street in Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Woody Marshall/News & Record via AP)

The May 25 video circulated by news outlets of Minneapolis-resident George Floyd lying face down next to a police cruiser with a police officer’s knee pressed down on his neck was chilling as it was shocking.

Officer Derek Chauvin, the man seen in the video with his knee on Floyd’s neck, stayed in that position for nearly 9 minutes, according to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin.

During nearly three of those minutes, Floyd became unresponsive.

Before that, Floyd said “I can’t breathe” several times, according to the complaint, even before he fell to the ground after allegedly suffering from a claustrophobia episode.

According to the autopsy that was performed, Floyd had underlying conditions. The combination of those conditions along with having a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes “likely contributed to his death,” according to the criminal complaint.

Unlike in similar police-involved deaths where people typically fall along partisan lines, this one was different. People on the left, the right, and in between agreed George Floyd’s death was senseless, tragic, did not have to happen. That the officer, and the other officers at the scene, used excessive, deadly force was not in dispute among most people.

There was near-universal agreement that Chauvin should be arrested for Floyd’s death. President Trump called for a federal probe into it. Attorney General Bill Barr issued a statement in which he said, “Accountability for his death must be addressed and is being addressed, through the regular process of our criminal justice system, both at the state and at the federal level.”

In spite of the country uniting together to call for justice in the death of George Floyd, soon after, the protests started.

Along with the protests came the rioting. And the looting. The arson and explosions. The scenes from Minneapolis in particular have looked like an apocalyptic war zone, not an American city.

It’s not much better in cities like New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, where chaos and anarchy have become acceptable substitutes for peaceful protests by the Democratic leaders in those cities.

The family of George Floyd has said that he would be horrified to see any of this happening in his name. Videos of Floyd from years prior show he was a man committed to ending gun violence among youth.

His family, and his memory, deserve justice. Destroying entire communities and taking away people’s homes and livelihoods will not solve any of this.

In fact, riots tend to have the opposite effect that those rioting intend them to. When people see rioters and looting and buildings being set on fire, they want more police presence, not less.

Though George Floyd’s death united a country, what has happened after has torn it apart.


Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.