BY ROBERT POZARYCKI
At the end of a tension-filled week in America, various New York figures called for justice in the Minnesota death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, as well as an end to racism.
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez issued a statement Friday morning condemning Floyd’s murder on Monday, which was caught on camera and went viral. The incident sparked a week of violent protests in Minneapolis, with demonstrators burning down the precinct station house where the officers involved were headquartered.
Demonstrations have occurred in New York and other cities across the country in which protesters called for an end to police brutality.
Velázquez seemed to suggest that the nation had come to a head as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which “has crystalized long-standing inequalities and cruelties in our society.”
“Every single American should feel anger and outrage. People of color are tired, not just of systematic abuse at the hands of law enforcement, but of income inequality, crumbling public housing, underinvestment in education, barriers to entrepreneurship and lack of access to affordable health care,” said the congresswoman, who represents parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. “All these symptoms of the underlying racism in American society contribute to the disproportionately higher mortality rates from COVID-19 we are seeing today in black and brown communities.”
Velázquez also condemned President Trump’s tweet early Friday morning in which he called protesters “thugs,” and went on to say, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“Lastly, let me say that for the President of the United States to escalate tensions with dangerous tweets, threatening violence against the people of Minneapolis is beyond abhorrent,” she said. “We’ve long known this president thrives on stoking racial animus and deepening divisions, but his latest remarks are a new low.”
On Friday afternoon, prosecutors charged one of the officers involved in the Floyd incident, Derek Chauvin, with counts of third-degree murder and manslaughter. Additional charges are pending the ongoing investigation. Chauvin and three other Minneapolis officers involved in the death were fired earlier this week, but no other charges have been filed yet.
Moments prior to the announcement of Chauvin’s arrest, New York Attorney General Letitia James called upon Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to appoint the state’s AG, Keith Ellison, as special prosecutor to investigate the matter. This would follow a standing executive order in New York in which special prosecutors are appointed to investigate deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of law enforcement officers.
“In order to conduct a truly independent investigation of Mr. Floyd’s death, it’s imperative that a special prosecutor be appointed, and I’m urging Governor Walz to appoint Attorney General Ellison as that special prosecutor,” James said. “Mr. Floyd’s family and communities in Minneapolis and across the country deserve answers and some semblance of justice for this horribly unjust act. Attorney General Ellison will help ensure that justice is served.”
The Floyd murder, along with the earlier incident his week in which a white woman threatened to call the cops and make a false report against a black birdwatcher in Central Park, have served to heighten racial tensions in New York and the country.
One spiritual leader, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, cited both incidents in calling for a peaceful end to racism in America.
“These instances have led to protests and violence since persons of color feel they have no recourse,” DiMarzio said in a statement. “We Christians must be fierce in our opposition to the evil of racism, but we must respond peacefully and remember the Lord’s call to us to love one another as He loves us.”
This story first appeared on amny.com.