Former President Barack Obama is urging the U.S. to "be better" and take active steps to correct its "legacy of bigotry" after the death of 46-year-old Minnesota man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer has prompted protests and a federal investigation led by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Floyd died in police custody Monday after being arrested for allegedly attempting to pass a fake $20 at a local store. Handcuffed and face-down on the ground, Floyd can be heard pleading that he cannot breathe for more than seven minutes as fired police officer Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck. Chauvin is white and Floyd is black.
My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020
Obama issued a statement Friday just an hour before Chauvin would be arrested and charged with 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter, sharing some of the interactions he has had with friends over the past several days about the case, saying "their anguish is the same. It's shared by me and millions of others."
The former president said while it would be "natural" to wish things could "just get back to normal" amid the pandemic and economic crisis, "we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal' — whether it's while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park."
He continued, "This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America. It can't be 'normal.' If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better." Calling on Minnesota officials to investigate Floyd's death "thoroughly" and make sure justice was done, Obama said it fell upon the rest of Americans to work together for a "new normal," one which "the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts."
President Donald Trump previously tweeted a call for "justice," but shifted focus to those involved in the Minneapolis riots that followed. In a post flagged by Twitter for "glorifying violence," Trump wrote Friday, "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"