Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the family of George Floyd, who died under police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis, said that it was the “pandemic of racism” that killed the unarmed African-American man.
“It was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd,” Xinhua news agency quoted Crump as saying on Thursday during the first memorial for Floyd since his brutal killing.
“The other pandemic that we’re far too familiar with in America, the pandemic of racism and discrimination that killed George Floyd.”
An autopsy report issued by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office on Wednesday revealed that Floyd had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on April 3.
Hennepin’s medical examiner ruled that the death was caused due to “cardiopulmonary arrest” when Floyd was restrained by several police officials on May 25.
Two earlier autopsies found that Floyd’s death was a homicide. However, they differed on the question of the cause of death.
An independent autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family found that he died due to “asphyxiation from sustained pressure”.
In a packed auditorium on Thursday at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis, the Floyd family, civil rights advocates, Minnesota state officials, and federal lawmakers including Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Ilhan Omar, as well as celebrities, gathered to pay tributes.
“We don’t want two justice systems in America. One for black and one for white,” Crump said, echoing his own words a day earlier ahead of the announcement of charges against the cops involved.
“What we endeavour to achieve is equal gestures for the United States of America.”
Prior to the memorial, hundreds of Minneapolis residents paid their tribute to Floyd by laying wreaths at a makeshift memorial site near the store where he died.
“All these people came to see my brother. And that is amazing to me that he touched so many people’s hearts,” the victim’s brother Philonise Floyd said at the memorial.
“Everybody wants justice, we want justice for George. He’s going to get it. He’s going to get it,” he said.
Floyd’s death has instigated nationwide protests against police abuse and racial discrimination at a time when the nation is still grappling with the spread of the coronavirus.
Although violent rioting has by and large subsided, peaceful demonstrations continued following Wednesday’s announcement that Derek Chauvin, the one who kept kneeling on Floyd’s neck even as he lost consciousness, was charged with second-degree murder, and that the three others received charges of aiding and abetting murder.
“I’m proud of the protests, but I’m not proud of the destruction. My brother wasn’t about that,” Terrace Floyd, another brother the victim, said in Brooklyn, New York, where a memorial service was being held simultaneously.
At the Minneapolis memorial, civil rights activist Alfred Sharpton said the reason African Americans have been marginalized is that the country kept its “knee on our necks”.
“We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck,” he said.
“What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life. It is time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, get your knee off our necks.”