As I watched the trial of Derek Chauvin the officer accused of killing George Floyd, viewed the video of the suffocation of Floyd and listened to the testimony of several the eyewitnesses, it became clear to me that the death of George Floyd was a crucifixion. No this is not hyperbole and I am not being sacrilegious. As a Christian and a minister of the gospel, I am very particular about anything or anyone that would be seen as analogous to Jesus Christ. But in this instance, the use of the term crucifixion has little to do with Jesus.
Instead, it has more to do with the way crucifixions were used by the Roman Empire. According to history between the two-year period of 73 BC—71 BC, 120,000 people were crucified in the Roman Empire. Crucifixion was one of the executions used for sedition, the incitement of rebellion, against the empire. Public crucifixions were used by the Roman Empire to remind conquered people what happened whenever they forgot who they were and Josephus the historian wrote that the Romans lined the streets of Jerusalem with crosses, as a means of intimidation.
When I watched the video of the incident and listened to the witness testimony in the Derek Chauvin case, what was most striking was how overt and publicly brutal the act of violence against George Floyd was. The video showed that several bystanders had their phone camera’s recording the altercation while it was happening in plain sight of Officer Chauvin and the other officers at the scene. You also could hear the bystanders pleading with Officer Chauvin to let George Floyd up, and continued to plead with him after Floyd was motionless on the ground for three minutes. Several said to Chauvin, “He’s stopped breathing,” “You’re killing him,” but none of these pleas, that were all being filmed by eyewitnesses, phased Chauvin or the other officers at the scene. How could they act in such a callous, disinterested and insensitive manner, oblivious to the witnesses that were recording them?
I concluded after listening to the screams and pleas from the bystanders, all whom were people of color, that Chauvin and the officers were not oblivious or disinterested at all. No, they were very interested and very calculating. They knew exactly what they were doing. They were sending a message to the bystanders and to all other people of color. And the message was, if you try to do something like George Floyd, the same thing will happen to you. Make sure you film this, make sure you get all of this on tape; because we want everyone to see what happens when one of YOU gets out of line and forgets their place in Milwaukee. The public, slow, brutal suffocation death of George Floyd was a deliberate act of intimidation for Black people and all people of color.
One witness said he called out to Officer Chauvin and their eyes met. He said he told Chauvin that he was giving George Floyd a blood choke. He said Chauvin just stared at him and continued with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Another witness said that while they were screaming at Officer Chauvin to free George Floyd that she saw him apply more pressure with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The message that Officer Derek Chauvin and all of the Milwaukee PD was very clear. It was a terrorizing message of tyranny and public execution that was meant as a warning to all citizens of color and particularly African Americans. The message was, today its George Floyd, but tomorrow if you are not careful it can be any of you.
And so just as the Roman Empire did, the Milwaukee Police Department used the brutal public knee suffocation death of George Floyd that they knew was being video recorded by several Black bystanders to send a message to all of us. And the point was made very clear. And the public broadcasting of it served to enhance and reinforce their objectives.
And so George Floyd was publicly crucified but as in all unjust crucifixions, God always has the last word. And with every crucifixion there is always a resurrection.