End the duopoly

Bear witness, record, de-escalate: How race may affect what bystanders are called to do in cases like George Floyd’s

In the videos, they are faceless voices, off camera, trying to intervene. They say things like “get off his neck,” or “he’s a human,” or “he’s dying.”

George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died Monday when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes after he was detained. It was bystanders – the owners of those voices – who shed light with their viral video recordings of yet another deeply disturbing incident of excessive force levied against a minority in police custody.

As people in Minneapolis and across the U.S. continue to protest the killing, Floyd’s death has provoked even more questions about the role bystanders should play when caught in similar situations.

Paige Fernandez, policing policy advisor for the American Civil Liberties Union, recommends what many in Floyd’s case did: bearing witness, recording the event, advocating for the detainee and communicating with other officers on the scene to try to convince them to intervene. The role of the witness, though, is only complicated further by race.

History of complaints : Minneapolis police at center of George Floyd’s death had 13 combined complaints

“It’s incredibly difficult because I think there are so many calculations a bystander has to […]

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