“J’étouffe!”—I’m suffocating! Cedric Chouviat’s plea was repeated seven times as four French police officers sought to subdue him with a chokehold in early January, near the Quai Branly, which runs along the Seine River in central Paris. Chouviat, a 42-year-old father of five who worked as a deliveryman, went into cardiac arrest and died two days later. An autopsy revealed that his larynx had been crushed.
His cry echoed that of Eric Garner, who also died after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer in 2014. A variation of the haunting refrain was heard in Minneapolis on May 25. “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd repeated as a police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes.
Floyd’s death and the excessive force used to subdue him sparked a torrent of demonstrations, not only across the United States, but also around the globe. Calls for social justice and an end to systemic racism have combined with protests against police violence and misconduct.