By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Philonise Floyd, has appealed to the United Nations (UN) to intervene in the situation of racism and police brutality against Americans of African descent. It was his own brother, George Floyd who was killed on 25 May by a Minneapolis police officer.
Philonise Floyd participated via video message during an urgent debate on police brutality and systemic racism organized by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday.
“My brother was unarmed and was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. My family and I had to watch the last moments of his life. When people dared to raise their voice and protest for my brother, they were tear-gassed,” Philonise said.
“My brother, George Floyd, is one of the many black men and women that have been murdered by police in recent years. You watched my brother die. That could have been me. I am my brother's keeper.”
“I am asking you (the UN) to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us - black people in America,” Philonise appealed.
Impetus from George Floyd killing
The UN Human Rights Council held Wednesday’s urgent debate following a call by the Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the UN, Dieudonné Désiré Sougouri.
During the 35th meeting of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council on Monday, Sougouri pointed out that “the tragic events of 25 May in Minneapolis in the US which led to the death of George Floyd, led to protests throughout the world against injustice and police brutality that persons of African descent face on a daily basis in many regions of the world.” He added that “the death of George Floyd is unfortunately not an isolated incident.”
Consequently, Sougouri called on the council to organize an urgent debate on the current violations of human rights that are based on “systemic racism, police brutality against persons of African descent and violence against peaceful demonstrations.”
Time is of the essence
High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, present at the debate, said, “we also need to make amends for centuries of racial discrimination.” She continued, “Time is of the essence. Patience has run out. Black Lives Matter. Indigenous lives matter.”
A few others also attending the debate were UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, and Deputy Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Kwesi Quartey.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American was killed on 25 May in Minneapolis, USA while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
A white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kept a knee on George Floyd’s neck while restraining him even after Floyd said he could not breathe and later lost consciousness. The videos that surfaced after the tragic killing led to protests against racism and police brutality in many cities across the world.
Derek Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers who assisted at the arrest have also been charged. All four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.