George Floyd's Killing and the Movement It Sparked: a Timeline on Everything You Need to Know
George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest on May 25.
As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his bail set at $1.25 million in connection with the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, who died during an arrest, people throughout the world continued to protest for justice and equal rights.
Floyd’s killing galvanized a movement after footage showed Chauvin with his knee on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, all while Floyd lay on the ground and pleaded that he could not breathe.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. ... (I need) water or something. Please. Please. I can't breathe, officer. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe,” Floyd said, the video showed.
Floyd was unresponsive when he was transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died hours later.
Here's everything we know so far about the case and the movement it has in part inspired:
May 25: Minneapolis police officers were called to Cup Foods store around 8 p.m. about a man possibly using a counterfeit $20 bill. Two officers, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were the first to arrive on the scene. They found Floyd in vehicle nearby with two other passengers inside, according to court records.
Lane pulled his gun on Floyd and only put it away once Floyd placed his hands on the steering wheel. Lane ordered him out of the car and handcuffed him. Officers tried to put Floyd in a patrol car, but Floyd told officers that he was not resisting, but did not want to be put inside the car because he was “claustrophobic,” according to the criminal complaint.
Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao tried to get Floyd into the squad car before Chauvin pulled Floyd to the ground while he was still handcuffed. Chauvin then placed his left knee on Floyd’s neck and held it there. Witnesses at the scene asked officers to stop, all while Floyd told them that he could not breathe. At one point, Floyd said, “I am about to die.”
Minutes later, Floyd appeared unresponsive. An ambulance arrived at 8:25 p.m. to transport Floyd to the hospital. At 9:25 p.m. Floyd was pronounced dead, according to the report. Police initially said Floyd had resisted arrest.
May 26: The video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck began circulating online. It didn't take long to go viral, prompting large protests in Minneapolis. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the four officers had been fired. Chauvin was identified as the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also called for an FBI civil rights investigation and it was made official that one would begin.
Floyd’s family spoke to CNN and said they want the officers responsible charged with murder.
“They treated him worse than they treat animals,” said Philonise Floyd, Floyd’s brother. “They took a life, they deserve life.”
The Floyd family hired prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to represent them. Crump had already been hired by the families of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
That night, hundreds flooded the streets. Some peacefully protested, while others vandalized police cars and the precinct where the four officers worked. People also began lighting fires around the city.
May 27: A second night of protests continued in Minneapolis. The demonstrations turned chaotic, as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds. One person was shot by a pawn shop owner and died as the looting continued. People also set fire to a local AutoZone. Mayor Jacob Frey asked the public to stop the looting in a late-night statement.
“Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” Frey said.
May 28: The National Guard was sent to Minneapolis as protests began to pop up in major cities across the United States, like New York and Los Angeles.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said thousands of troops would be deployed.
“Let’s be very clear,” Walz said. “The situation in Minneapolis, is no longer, in any way, about the murder of George Floyd. It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”
The Department of Justice said that an investigation into Floyd’s death was a top priority.
Dozens of protesters with signs lined up outside Chauvin’s home and wrote “murderer” on his driveway. Several cops were assigned to protect the home.
Chauvin’s wife, Kellie Chauvin, announced she was filing for divorce after a ten-year marriage.
May 29: Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said, “This is by far the fastest we've ever arrested a police officer."
Twitter also placed a warning on a post by President Trump that seemed to imply Minneapolis protesters should be shot, saying it was "glorifying violence." All the while, tensions escalated over Floyd’s death and protests continued to branch out nationwide.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote. “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!”
New video footage also began circulating on social media, showing three other Minneapolis officers on the scene also restraining Floyd. Two of them, along with Chauvin, could be seen on the ground restraining him. The video was reportedly taken before the footage showing only Chauvin was captured. In the earlier video, Floyd can be heard telling officers he can’t breathe and asking them to please let him stand.
May 31: Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of the store where police were initially called, spoke out, saying that calling the cops “does more harm than good.” Abumayyaleh said he was not at the not at the store when police were called.
"Police are supposed to protect and serve their communities; instead, what we’ve seen over and over again is the police abusing their power and violating the people’s trust," Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, wrote on Facebook.
"We realize now that escalating situations to the police almost always does more harm than good, even for something as harmless as a fake bill," he added.
June 1: Two autopsies for George Floyd were released. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office's initial report and another from a medical examiner hired but the Floyd family differed significantly. According to the independent autopsy, Floyd was in good health and died from asphyxia caused by "severe pressure" on his neck and back from Minneapolis Police Department officers pinning him to the pavement.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said Floyd’s cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” which means he stopped breathing while being restrained. They maintained there were "no physical findings" to "support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation,” but added Floyd was intoxicated due to fentanyl at the time of his death and had recently used methamphetamine. He had also tested positive for the coronavirus at the time of his death, but the report said he was asymptomatic.
June 3: Three more officers who detained Floyd— J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao— were charged in connection with Floyd’s deaths and the charges against Chauvin were upgraded. The development came after protesters across the world in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter movement called for both. Chauvin’s charges were upgraded to second-degree murder and manslaughter, while the other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Protesters not only continued to protest for justice for Floyd, but for Breonna Taylor, who was shot by police in her Kentucky home, and Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by two white men who initially told police they believed he had stolen something from a construction site in Georgia. Demonstrators across the country also called to defund the police and for large systemic change. From Europe to Asia to the Middle East, people stood with the Black Lives Matter movement.
June 4: A memorial service was held for Floyd at North Central University in Minneapolis, with Rev. Al Sharpton giving the eulogy. Temperature checks were carried out before the service. Several politicians and celebrities were in attendance.
“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks,” Sharpton said “Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck.”
Many of Floyd’s family members spoke out at the service as well.
One of Floyd's friends, Maurice Lester Hall, who was in the vehicle when police arrested Floyd, told the New York Times that Floyd did not resist.
“He was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way,” Hall said. “I could hear him pleading, ‘Please, officer, what’s all this for?’”
June 6: Grassroots organization Black Visions Collective organized a protest against police violence, which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey attended. He was encouraged to answer "yes" or "no," if he believes in defunding the police department.
“I do not support the full abolition of the police department,” he said into the microphone. Frey was met with booing and chants of “go home Jacob, go home.” The Twitter user who posted the video of the event wrote Frey’s leaving was the “most intense walk of shame I’ve ever seen.”
June 7: A majority of the Minneapolis City Council announced their intention to disband the city’s police department at a rally where hundreds of people gathered to call for changes in police practices. Nine out of 13 council members stood on stage at the rally organized by grassroots organizations Reclaim the Block, the Black Visions Collective and MPD150 to share their support.
“This council is going to dismantle this police department,” council member Jeremiah Ellison said.
The city council’s vow resulted in cheers from the people at the rally. “Look. At. This,” film director Ava DuVernay wrote in a retweet of the news. One user tweeted “@ everyone in the comments going “ohhh this is such a bad idea” as if the police were effective in the first place,” and included a screenshot of a paragraph from a The Appeal article explaining activists’ long argument of the failure of the MPD.
The decision was also met with criticism. Sheriff James Stewart of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post: "We are one of many agencies who have no appetite for going back to their city to restore order again; especially if their decision is to actively compromise the safety of the city.”
June 8: Chauvin’s bail was set at $1.25 million or $1 million with conditions at his first court appearance since he was arrested. Chauvin appeared before the judge through a video feed. The conditional bail requires Chauvin to abide by the law, to make future appearances, to not serve in law enforcement or security, to have no contact with the Floyd family, and to surrender his firearms.
A public viewing for Floyd was also held at a Houston church. Floyd was originally from the area. Former Vice President and presumptive democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden met privately with the Floyd family in Houston as well. Hundreds of mourners lined up outside The Fountain of Praise church as the lines for the viewing stretched outside the parking lot.
Biden did not attend the services, but he recorded a video message to be played during it.
June 9: Floyd’s funeral was held in Houston with Rev. Al Sharpton giving another powerful eulogy. Family members of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Botham Jean, Pamela Turner, Michael Brown and Ahmaud Arbery were all in attendance.
“Until we know the price for black life is the same as the price of white life, we’re going to keep coming back to these situations over and over again,” Sharpton said. “Either the law will work or it won’t work.”
July 7: The transcripts of a Minneapolis officer’s body cam footage were released, revealing that Floyd told officers he couldn’t breathe more than 20 times. The transcripts were submitted to the state court as an effort by one officer, Thomas Lane, to have his charges of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder dismissed.
At one point, Floyd said: “Mama, I love you. Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.”
July 9: A judge presiding over the four officers' cases who were charged in connection with Floyd death issued a gag order that prohibits attorneys and others involved in the case from public disclosing “opinions, strategies, plans or potential evidence.”
“The court finds that continuing pretrial publicity in this case by the attorneys involved will increase the risk of tainting a potential jury pool and will impair all parties’ right to a fair trial,” Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill wrote.
July 13: The attorneys for all of the charged officers filed motions to vacate the gag order in connection to their clients cases. Eric Nelson, who is representing Derek Chauvin, alleged that the gag order violated Chauvin’s constitutional rights to free speech and a public trial, The Star Tribune reported.
“Given the global extent and tenor of pretrial publicity in this case, halting the flow of any information from Mr. Chauvin, through his counsel— before even a single statement has been made— to the public is more likely to prejudice the jury pool (to the extent that it has not already) than to prevent a taint,” Nelson wrote. “The Court’s order effectively allows the repeated and unmitigated condemnation of a criminal defendant by nonparty public officials and celebrities.”
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