Recent news of a Black man dying as a result of force used by police in Minneapolis has many calling into question the tactics used by officers.
The incident hits home for a family in Ontario’s Durham region, where last year a video of officers appearing to punch a Black teenager surfaced.
The 16-year-old boy in the video is Anthony McIntosh’s grandson. Wednesday, as he revisited Cathedral Park in Whitby where the incident took place last May, McIntosh said painful memories came to mind.
“I’m saying to myself, if that officer had put a little more pressure to his neck, he could have been in the same position Mr. Floyd had been in,” he said.
George Floyd, 46, was captured on camera lying face down in the street, gasping for air and groaning, “I can’t breathe” on Monday evening in St. Louis Park, Minn.
“As Black people our skin is a weapon to police. That’s what they’re seeing first,” McIntosh said.
“They’re not seeing a human being. They’re not seeing a person that bleeds the same blood as them.”
Floyd died shortly after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him down with a knee to the neck. The incident ignited public outrage and grief. Floyd’s family is now crying out for justice, saying firing the four officers involved was not enough.
“This is a homicide and this is a murder and it needs to be treated as such,” said Tanya Sharpe, associate professor with the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
According to an organization called Mapping Police Violence, in 2019, nearly 1,100 people were killed by police in the U.S.
Twenty-four per cent of those victims were Black: a disproportionate number, given that the overall population of the U.S. is less than 13 per cent African-American.
Sharpe says sadly, “this is not anything that’s new in terms of the brutal state-sanctioned killing of Black and Brown people.”
“In fact, I think it’s even woven into the fabric of our society.”
Sharpe says things need to change, especially when it comes to the way police conduct hiring, training and community outreach: a task easier said than done.
Most of all, she says, officers involved in incidents like Floyd’s need to be held accountable.