On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by law enforcement in Minneapolis, MN. The horrifying event was captured on cell phone video and broadcast to the world, sparking long overdue movements toward racial justice and, possibly, the necessary steps toward reconciliation after America’s over 400 years of systemic racial oppression. According to Jonathan Veal, one of Mr. Floyd’s childhood friends, George Floyd talked of wanting to “touch the world.” When family and friends remembered Mr. Floyd as he was laid to rest in his hometown of Houston, Texas, it was clear that not only had George Perry Floyd Jr., touched the world, he did so in a way that left the world a better place because of his humanity and grace. Now it is on all of us to ensure that the opportunity caused by his death is not lost.
George Floyd died a day before the 5th anniversary of Lamar Johnson being arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. What happened to Lamar happens every day to thousands of Black men in the United States. Lamar was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction and he was ultimately arrested for a non-violent charge that could have been handled with a simple summons to appear in court at some future date. Instead, on May 26, 2015, Lamar was booked into one of the deadliest jails in America, the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Within hours, Lamar’s safety was threatened by other detainees, he was assaulted by guards, thrown into a solitary confinement cell, and ignored by jail staff as he cried out for help. He died days later after being found on the floor of his cell critically injured after hanging from his bed sheet on the open bars of the cell.
If we as a country are going to deal with law enforcement violence and the systemic degradation and dehumanization of Black bodies, then we must deal with America’s prisons and jails. The movement for police reform, defunding and re-imagining the role of police in society would not have happened but for cell phone video of George Floyd’s murder. The violence and deadly neglect that happened to Lamar Johnson and to incarcerated individuals every day in America is almost never recorded, and it is almost always covered up. When lawsuits are brought, a legal system designed to protect guards and prison officials blocks any form of accountability. Clinton era statutes that accelerated mass incarceration also place huge legal barriers to litigation that could help reform, leading to an endless cycle of violence and neglect.
As the world knows, the jail and prison industrial complex was created to oppress our non-white brothers and sisters. No one that knows anything about this crucial aspect of law enforcement believes anything good happens in America’s jails and prisons. It is time to expose the violence and degradation, change the laws that fail to hold all law enforcement accountable, defund America’s jails and prisons, and invest money in programs that keep us all safe.
Approved cases will be documented and litigated with funds generated by our nonprofit. Fair Fight Initiative receives many applications, and responses may take many weeks.