George Perry Floyd was, in addition to all those things that have been told and written these days by the trial of the policeman who suffocated him with his knee in May 2020, a man’s wardrobe. He was close to two meters in height, exceeded 100 kilos in weight and, when he entered a room or any place, he used to say hello to everyone there one by one so as not to be scary. His mother, who was incapacitated by a stroke, he lifted her up and danced with her Love and happiness, by Al Green, in the living room. Larcenia, who died in 2018, had raised him with his four siblings in a public apartment block in the Third Ward of Houston (Texas), the same neighborhood as the singer Beyoncé, with her salary as a daycare caregiver.
He measured all of them on a wall where they left a sign and Perry, as his family called him, was always the tallest. Also, the one in charge of preparing some impossible banana and mayonnaise sandwiches for the little ones and the best, by far, playing basketball. So much so that thanks to sports he got a scholarship in 1993 to study at a public university with shorter degrees. But that was not good for him and, when he returned to the neighborhood, everything started to turn out quite badly. He suffered several arrests, committed drug crimes, there were robberies and spent up to five years in jail.
He had five children with different women and tried to rebuild his life many times; She sponsored children with problems, took refuge in religion, moved to the other end of the country, to Minneapolis (Minnesota). There he worked as a security guard in a couple of stores and, in one of them, he ran into a policeman named Derek Chauvin who also worked as a security guard to get extra money. With the pandemic, Floyd was unemployed and on May 25, when he paid for a packet of cigarettes with a counterfeit $ 20 bill, he met his death. Officer Chauvin held him with his knee to his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds while claiming that he could not breathe and that they were going to kill him. In his last words, he called out to the dead mother: “Mom, I’m done.”
Philonise Floyd has heard those words and seen her brother die dozens of times. In a literal sense. Almost a month has passed in Minneapolis following George’s death trial, in which those moments have been visualized, studied, and analyzed from multiple angles ad nauseam. That May 25, a global icon against police brutality and racism was born, unwittingly, a wave of protests unparalleled since the death of Martin Luther King in 1968 began and forever changed the life of this 39-year-old trucker. who is now speaking in the United States Congress, receives calls from President Joe Biden and has decided to dedicate his life to preventing “new George Floyd.”
The younger brother and main spokesman for the Floyd family attends EL PAÍS on Thursday afternoon, just over 24 hours after a momentous verdict, in which Chauvin has been found guilty of homicide. Philonise had spent the meager 10 hours the jury took to deliberate with a heavy heart. “When the judge read and said ‘guilty, guilty, guilty,’ I wanted to jump, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the judge. It was exciting because African Americans, or rather, people of color, period, we do not usually receive justice in these cases, “he says. In his opinion, the ruling is the exception that confirms the rule, the one that says that no uniformed person is held accountable for their abuses, a turning point. “The blue wall (the color of the uniforms) of the police has collapsed,” he maintains, “this time we have seen commanders, police department heads say that they were not going to validate this and that made me feel good, because the George’s life has meant something. “
Philonise is also tall and burly, though not as big as Big Floyd, as some called the deceased. He wears a mask with the numbers 8.46, which refer to 8 minutes and 46 seconds that, at first, it was calculated that the policeman had pressed Floyd’s neck to the ground, although as the investigation progressed the final calculation was placed in the 9 minutes and 29 seconds. On the shirt, under the suit, the name of Daunte Wright appears in large white letters. He is the 20-year-old who died on April 11 in a suburb near Minneapolis when he tried to escape arrest because a police officer shot him, according to the first hypotheses of the investigators, when they confused his bullet pistol with the stun gun.
Floyd’s brother attended the boy’s funeral with other family members on Thursday. He has been in contact with the relatives of other black men killed in police interventions that were recorded and questioned, such as those of Eric Garner in 2014 in New York, also immobilized by the neck, or Philando Castile, shot near Minneapolis when he warned the officers that he was carrying a licensed pistol in the car.
That is “a brotherhood”, he says, of which they never wanted to “be part”, but now it suits him to be at the head of the demonstration, to turn misfortune into a life mission. He has decided to promote a foundation to fight for “no more Eric Garners, no more George Floyds, no more Philando Castiles.” It’s going to be called the Philonise and Keeta Institute [el nombre de su esposa] for Social Change. When the Floyd case broke out, the family was turned over to a well-known civil rights attorney, Ben Crump. In March, Minneapolis reached an agreement to pay the family 27 million dollars (22.3 million euros) to avoid the civil lawsuit. That, says Philonise, is money that belongs to her brother’s children and that she would throw away right now in exchange for having it back.
When was George Floyd lost? When did the boy who played basketball and made banana sandwiches go astray and end up in jail? It is the moment of the interview in which the face of Philonise Floyd becomes more serious: “He did not show me that part.” The death of the mother, in 2018, emotionally liquidated him. “He was a good person, but he was having a hard time,” he adds. Before, during adolescence, what happened to many other boys in his environment, according to an acquaintance of the family, on condition of anonymity: “The neighborhood happened to him, it is very easy for things to happen to you there.”
The point, Philonise says, is that her brother “died on a $ 20 bill and others shoot people in a church and then go to Burger King for dinner.” Floyd’s brother refers to Dylann Roof, the racist who in 2015, when he was 21 years old, entered a black Baptist church in Charleston (South Carolina) and killed nine people. When he was arrested the day after the events, he said he was hungry and the officers bought him food from the hamburger chain. Two years later he was sentenced to the death penalty.
When reports of brutal arrests of African American men emerge, this case is often remembered. Philonise has also felt racism and has felt the bias of the police throughout her life. “I am always very kind; I’ve heard racist things many times, but I always reply, ‘God bless you.’ “My brother was also,” he continues, “he would come to a room and illuminate it, whenever he went to a new place he greeted everyone, from every corner. I would ask him, ‘Why are you doing that’, and he would say to me: ‘Don’t you see me? If I don’t go and greet them with my size, they think I’m a threat ”. You feel peace when you think about this: “George has changed the world.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.