Keynote Speaker Rev. Dr. William Barber II face emanates neon purple rays against a background of dark blue with dark teal concentric pentagonal shapes that subtly meet one another to create a cohesive pattern as they radiate out in to space. Race Forward Presents Facing Race: A National Conference.

Six years after the public witnessed Eric Garner take his last breaths on video while telling officers from the New York City Police Department “I can’t breathe,” a Black man can be heard saying the exact same words in a video released to the public on May 26. As a result, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) announced that it will investigate the death of the unidentified man, who was pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis Police Department officer.

In the bystander video, the man—whom the Minneapolis police reported was in his 40s—can be heard gasping for breath as an officer kneels on his neck. Someone off-camera tells the cops, “You got him down, now let him breathe.” The police report from May 25 noted that “at no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident,” yet officers “noted [the man] appeared to be suffering medical distress.” He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center via ambulance, where he later died.

“He should not have died,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said during a press conference on May 26. “For five minutes we watched as a White officer pressed his knee to the neck of a Black man. For five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th this last night was simply awful.”

St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter tweeted his anger this morning and called for all officers, including those who stood by, to be held responsible. 

 

Chief of police Medaria Arradondo, who appeared at Frey’s press conference, told KARE11 that he contacted the FBI to look into civil rights violations after a community source shared additional information about what led to the fatal incident. “We clearly have policies in place regarding placing someone under control and what areas that could be of risk, so that will be part of the full investigation,” Arradondo said. “That we’ll do internally, the use of force review, but certainly the FBI will be looking at that as well.”

As the video makes its way around social media and the public begins to respond, KARE11 reports that the neighborhood’s council member, Andrea Jenkins, released a statement saying that enough was enough. “Our community continues to be traumatized again and again and again,” Jenkins wrote. “We were already in the midst of developing a summer safety strategy for this neighborhood, but immediate action is required now.”

In the meantime, various activist groups, from Black Lives Matter Minnesota to the Racial Justice Network will protest in the location where the man was arrested.