Whitmer on death of George Floyd: 'Black lives under threat every day'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday the family of George Floyd deserves a "thorough and timely impartial" investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death at the hands of a white police officer. 

Whitmer's remarks came as Derek Chauvin — the fired Minneapolis officer who knelt on the neck of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who later died in custody — was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

The case has roiled Minneapolis for three days with sometimes violent protests and looting across the city. 

"It's incumbent on every one of us to stand up for what is right. We have to hold people accountable. People that perpetuate these abhorrent actions," Whitmer said during a Friday press briefing. 

"George Floyd's death in the deaths of many others — Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride — they are not isolated incidents, but they're a part of a systemic cycle of racial injustice in our country." 

McBride, 19, was unarmed when she was fatally shot in 2013 on the porch of a Dearborn Heights home where she'd gone after getting into a car accident. 

Whitmer said she's been watching the news about Floyd and was "just horrified" by what she saw in the video of his arrest, where he is heard pleading that he could not breathe. 

"The events of the last couple of weeks have really sent a clear message that black lives are under threat every single day, whether it's the fear of law enforcement or fear of this pandemic," said Whitmer, referring to the disproportionate deaths that African Americans have suffered due to COVID-19.

"And we cannot live in a society, in a country where rights and dignity are not equal."

Whitmer said the episode is a reminder that society "has not treated this broken component of our culture with the urgency that it demands."

"And there has not been the urgency in doing the hard work that we need to do as a country to enact the cultural change," she said.

"It's long overdue, and I cannot pretend that I understand the exhaustion or the desperation that African Americans across our country are feeling right now."

Whitmer said she can't imagine being a mother who's "afraid every time her son goes out in public that he might not come home."

"But what I do understand is that it's on every leader in this country to work urgently until we achieve that cultural change that's overdue."

Prosecutors in the Floyd case said an investigation is ongoing into the other three officers who were at the scene. Authorities said Floyd was pinned for nearly three minutes after he became unresponsive. Police said Floyd was resisting arrest.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday acknowledged the “abject failure” this week of the government's response to the protests in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Walz said the state would take over the response to the protests and that it was time to show respect and dignity to those who are suffering.

Protesters overnight set fire to a police station, and the National Guard was deployed to help. President Donald Trump threatened action on Twitter, saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts."


The Associated Press contributed