George Floyd’s brother pleaded for peace in the streets Monday, saying destruction is “not going to bring my brother back at all,” while President Donald Trump berated most of the nation’s governors as “weak” for not cracking down harder on the lawlessness that has convulsed cities from coast to coast.
The competing messages — one conciliatory, one bellicose — came as the U.S. braced for another round of violence at a time when the country is already buckling because of the coronavirus outbreak and the Depression-level unemployment it has caused.
“We are a country that is scared. We are a country that is angry,” said Sam Page, county executive in St. Louis County, Missouri, where the city of Ferguson has been synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement since the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, in a clash with a white officer. “And we are a country that is holding out for the promise of justice for all.”
In Minneapolis, Floyd’s brother, Terrence, made an emotional plea at the site where Floyd was pinned to the pavement by an officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing.
“Let’s switch it up, y’all. Let’s switch it up. Do this peacefully, please,” Terrence Floyd said.
The crowd chanted, “What’s his name? George Floyd!” and “One down, three to go!” in reference to the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest. Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding that his colleagues be prosecuted, too. All four were fired.
The gathering was part rally and part impromptu eulogy as Floyd urged people to stop the violence and use their power at the ballot box.
“If I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are you all doing?” he said. “You all are doing nothing. Because that’s not going to bring my brother back at all.”
The country has been beset by angry demonstrations for the past week in some of the most widespread racial unrest in the U.S. since the 1960s. Spurred in part by Floyd’s death, protesters have taken to the streets to decry the killings of black people by police.
While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, others have descended into violence, leaving neighborhoods in shambles, stores ransacked, windows broken and cars burned, despite curfews around the country and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in at least 15 states.
Trump told the nation’s governors in a video conference that they they “look like fools” for not deploying even more National Guard troops. “Most of you are weak,” he said.