The police-involved death of an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis has struck an emotional chord with mothers of other Black men who have been killed after encounters with law enforcement. The brazen killing of George Floyd on Monday triggered flashbacks for the women dubbed the “Mothers of the Movement” whose adult children were also killed by police.
Floyd’s killing was especially personal for Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, the school worker who was shot and killed by police in Minnesota after he told an officer he was legally carrying a concealed weapon in his car. It’s been nearly four years since Philando was killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez less than two minutes after being pulled over for a broken tail light on July 6, 2016. Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her young daughter were also in the car. Reynolds pulled out her phone and recorded on Facebook Live and the haunting images of an innocent man’s death would forever be seared into our memories. Similarly, Floyd’s killing was documented with a cellphone video.
Valerie Castile took to Facebook to specifically address the Hennepin County prosecutor who declined to criminally charge Yanez and another officer in Philando’s death. Writing in all-caps, Valerie Castile blasted Mike Freeman and referenced the case of Mohamed Noor, a Black Minneapolis police officer in prison for shooting an unarmed white woman.
“Let’s BE CLEAR!! MIKE FREEMAN!! WE Watching The Continued MURDER Of People Of Colour, SHOWS The Leadership Of The State Of Minnesota!! WE Want THE SAME ACCOUNTABILITY As Officer NOOR!! PAID LEAVE MY AZZ!!WE ARE NOT STUPID The PEOPLE Are GETTING RESTLESS!!GRRRRRR,” she posted to her Facebook on Tuesday afternoon above an illustration of her son.
She wrote in an earlier post that “WE ARE BEING HUNTED!!” and urged her followers to “UNITE AND MOBILIZE.” In that post, she attached an explicit photo of Philando Castile bleeding and juxtaposed it with still shots from Monday’s death of Floyd.
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, also spoke out on Tuesday when a reporter asked for her reaction to the news of Floyd’s killing. Floyd’s apparent last words — “I cannot breathe” — were similar to Garner’s — “I can’t breathe” — and both deaths were recorded by bystanders as police appear unfazed that cameras were filming.
“It was déjà vu all over again,” Carr told NBC News about the similarities between Floyd’s killing and Garner’s. “It’s like a reoccurring nightmare.”
Garner was killed when a police officer employed an illegal chokehold on him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a nonviolent offense just like Floyd’s alleged crime of forgery.
“I don’t see any justification. To put your knee on someone’s neck, you are obstructing their breathing. That is completely a no-no,” Carr said. “Why would you keep your knee there? After three minutes, you don’t realize that this man is saying that he can’t breathe? And he’s struggling, struggling for life?”
The Minneapolis Poice department fired the four officers it said were involved in Floyd’s death. But Carr only had to point to her own experience to underscore how little that meant in the vast scheme of things. She said she wants to see swift justice for Floyd’s family, a far cry from the officer who killed her son. Daniel Pantaleo was fired, but only after he got a pay raise and avoided criminal charges for more than five years.
“I hope this family doesn’t need to suffer like I suffered for six years,” Carr said.