A pilot took to the skies over Nova Scotia to pay tribute to George Floyd, a Black man whose death in police custody has sparked protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S., Canada and beyond.
Dimitri Neonakis flew in the pattern of a fist raised in the air, a symbol long associated with movements against anti-Black racism, on Thursday.
The 330-nautical mile flight took 2.5 hours in a single-engine Cirrus SR22, Neonakis said.
“While I was up there moving around free, the words of George Floyd — ‘I can’t Breathe’ — came to mind a few times, a stark contrast,” he said in a Facebook post calling for the end of racism.
Neonakis has used the plane to create other images in recent months, starting with a heart after 22 people were killed in Nova Scotia in April.
He uses an app to map out his flight paths, he explained, and it takes four or five hours to draw out the plans.
The images of his flights give some comfort to people, Neonakis said.
“People like it. And as long as people like it, I’ll keep flying.”
He enjoys creating the images, and uses his “little tiny airplane” as an outlet, he said.
“To see this,” he said in reference to Floyd’s death, “it hurts me.”
“I want to get up there and and spread the word of how I feel. I’m not doing political messages… it’s how I feel. And other people, they do it through their own means.”
A historic wave of protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism started in the U.S. after Floyd’s death during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minn. on May 25.
Four police officers have been since charged, including Derek Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”
In Minneapolis on Thursday, mourners gathered for the first in a series of a memorials to Floyd, who was 46.
“George Floyd’s story has been the story of Black folks,” Rev. Al Sharpton said in a eulogy, “because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck.
“It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, `Get your knee off our necks!”’
— With files from the Associated Press