Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here.
At approximately 8:19 p.m. on the evening of May 25, Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, brought his weight down upon George Floyd’s neck. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, arrested for the alleged crime of using a counterfeit $20 bill, struggled for breath—for life—for more than five minutes. Lying prostrate on the hot concrete, his arms handcuffed behind his back, his airways choked by Chauvin’s knee, Floyd summoned the strength to tell shocked bystanders that his life was slowly leaving his body. Twenty times he told his executioners, “I can’t breathe.” Twice he called out to his mother, who had passed away in 2018.
Floyd lost consciousness. He joined his mother. Chauvin’s knee stayed on his neck for another three minutes.