As Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison files charges against all four Minneapolis police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd, a mass uprising against police brutality continues. “At this point, we’re looking at a nation and a world that has decided that what we saw happen on camera … is no longer acceptable, and we cannot continue to meet and ask and cry and beg for change. People have taken to the streets to demand change,” says Tamika Mallory, former national co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. As the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison files charges against all four Minneapolis police officers involved in last week’s killing of African American George Floyd, a mass uprising against police brutality continues in the streets, from Minneapolis to Louisville to Houston to Los Angeles.
We go now to activist Tamika Mallory to discuss the latest developments, the police killing, as well, of Breonna Taylor, and more. Tamika Mallory is the former national co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., also co-founder of the social justice organization Until Freedom. She’s joining us from New York City, after participating in the protests in Houston, Louisville and Minneapolis, where she gave a major speech that went viral. This is a part of it.
TAMIKA MALLORY: Don’t talk to us about looting. Y’all are the looters. America has looted Black people. America looted the Native Americans when they first came here, so looting is what you do. We learned it from you.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Tamika Mallory joins us now from New York, soon headed to the memorial for George Floyd.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Tamika. Talk about the latest development, the charges brought against all four officers, and their significance.
TAMIKA MALLORY: Good morning. Good morning. Thank you so much for having me.
So, as Nekima, my colleague, has said, we are definitely glad that there have been charges against all four officers and, of course, that the charges against Chauvin have been increased. However, we know that we cannot rely on charges as the end of our fight. We have to ensure that we stay engaged in this movement and continue to push for convictions, because too often we see these things happen where everyone is excited that someone has been charged, when we get an officer charged, and then, in the end, it falls apart once it makes it into the courtroom, into a system that is not designed to hold police officers responsible for the abuse against poor, Black and Brown people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Tamika, I mean, several people have pointed out that these protests are very different from the protests about previous Black African Americans killed by the police, from Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner. First of all, these protests spread very rapidly across the U.S., but also across the world, from New Zealand to Brazil to France, and also with much greater intensity. And many observers and protesters themselves have said they have never witnessed such an outpouring of grief and anger on such a mass scale. Now, do you think that the intensity and the range of these protests, as some say, might actually result in substantive change? You’ve said that we can’t rely any longer on just charges against police officers, but also prosecutions. Do you think it’s likely that the scale of these protests, unlike the protests that have preceded them, may actually make that possible?
TAMIKA MALLORY: Well, I mean, certainly, you are right. The protests that we’re seeing today and the ways in which people are engaged and sustaining for so many days is very strong. I think we saw something similar around Trayvon Martin’s death when George Zimmerman was found not guilty. We saw real energy across the country, where the Black Lives Matter movement was sparked. But, of course, in this particular moment, it is intensified. And I think that from Trayvon Martin, and even cases before that, leading up to today, all of it comes together, and you see that energy.
But particularly in the last month, month and a half, we know that people have literally been traumatized by not one, not two, but three different incidents, where I know for sure I’ve personally been traumatized. Ahmaud Arbery — people watched a video where it was clear that that young man was hunted, and he was hunted by two different cars, in which they boxed him in, and he was shot with a shotgun on the streets just for jogging.
Then we see Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor is a young 26-year-old woman, an EMT worker, so she is a first responder at a time when people are also stressed and going through a lot as it relates to COVID-19, 100,000-plus Americans who have died at the hands of an incompetent administration.
And then we come to George Floyd, in which we watch him die. We literally watch his life leave his body. The difference, to me, in the Eric Garner situation is that he’s — as he’s being choked, there is some movement of people around. But in this situation, we see George Floyd literally held, handcuffed, down, suffocating. And as the attorney Ben Crump said, he was being tortured by someone who literally sat on his neck and was there trying to kill him, and he succeeded.
So, therefore, there’s a level of trauma that I believe has built up in individuals across this country. And it’s no longer just a Black protest or a Black movement. At this point, we’re looking at a nation and a world that has decided that what we saw happen on camera, not just in one incident, but Ahmaud Arbery and this incident, is no longer acceptable. And we cannot continue to meet and ask and cry and beg for change. People have taken to the streets to demand change.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Tamika, I think one of the things that has exacerbated the trauma that you speak of is the extent of the militarization of the police that we see. I mean, we’re all in New York City, and you can see. I mean, there are literally the constant sound of helicopters overhead, constantly police sirens all across the city, and then just the figures of these police officers, who look more like paramilitary with all this gear and equipment and so on. Now, in New York, hundreds of staffers of Mayor Bill de Blasio have called for defunding the police, following what they’ve seen here, the New York Police Department’s response to the protests. Can you respond to that, the question of whether the police, not just in New York but across the U.S., should be defunded?
TAMIKA MALLORY: So, I 100% support defunding the police. The one thing we know about America and its capitalism is that money is all that really, really, really matters. If people were just walking in the streets in New York and across this country, and there were not folks vandalizing — which we totally don’t support — but to make the point, that the vandalism is what has sparked a need to try to reconcile and fix it and let’s see what we can do to calm things down, not the violence that occurred in the first place against George Floyd, where there should have been swift action to deal with it before people hit the streets, and then, afterwards, people began to vandalize — some people, rare instances, yet it happened.
So, the same thing applies when we’re talking about the police department and, again, how this system functions based in and steeped in capitalism. If you defund a person, you defund a company, you defund an institution like the police department, you get people’s attention. And I completely support that.
What I don’t think is that you will receive from this mayor in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, an interest in it. And even, I don’t even think he’ll give it the slightest bit of attention. And the reason why — maybe his staffers can help, and I think it’s great that they were courageous enough to step out there and to do something on behalf of their communities. However, this mayor has not shown us that he’s bold, that he is courageous and that he’s willing to stand up to the police department. It took us five years to get Daniel Pantaleo fired after he choked Eric Garner to death, and in the police manual, it says that a chokehold is inappropriate, and it is in fact illegal. But it still took us five years, plus protesters like myself, Kirsten Foy of Arc of Justice, Carmen — not Carmen Perez, I’m sorry — Mysonne Linen, Linda Sarsour and so many others, to go to a presidential debate and have to actually call him out during the debate in order to make sure that he could not go around this country touting his relationships between police and community in New York that doesn’t really exist.
And so, you know, I’m not confident in this mayor, unfortunately, that he’s going to do that work. I’ve seen him, as of late, trying to begin to have conversations around the social distancing piece, with community groups to figure out other ways to deal with social distancing in communities, but I still just do not feel that he has what it takes to really stand up to Commissioner Shea and those in the NYPD, and particularly the police union.
AMY GOODMAN: Tamika Mallory, I’ve got two questions for you. One is the tear-gassing of protesters, this critical issue, these two plagues of racism and police brutality and the pandemic, and the fact that protesters all over this country are getting gassed — tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed — and coronavirus is a respiratory disease, and it’s particularly affecting communities of color, who are the leaders now of these protests all over the country — what this means?
And the other question has to do with the militarization of police all over, the buzzing by a helicopter of the protesters in Washington, all levels hiding their affiliation of security, whether you’re talking National Guard, Bureau of Prisons, all together with police, and the whole battle over whether the Army is going to be involved with suppressing protests, and what you make of people like Mattis, the former defense secretary, General [John] Allen and others, who are now condemning Trump for what’s happening right now, bringing the Army into the streets. And Esper, it’s not clear where he stands. He condemns it, then he goes back. He has a fight with Trump, and then he says he supports it. Not clear. But your thoughts on both?
TAMIKA MALLORY: So, I think the tear-gassing and the ways in which — the rubber bullets, of which I experienced in Minneapolis, and I know much about it because many of my friends and colleagues in this work experienced the same on the streets of Ferguson, where Mike Brown was shot and killed and left there for four hours laying on the ground for the entire community to see and to be traumatized by. I know that America has always been militarized in terms of its police force. And we’ve been saying that. In fact, there is a campaign called “end the police militarization,” that folks have been pushing to get done in Congress. And so, we’ve been sounding the alarm about all of these things. This is not new.
As it relates to what we see happening with the administration, the president of the United States ran on being a law-and-order president. He said it. He said it. And that was a part of his platform. So we knew what he would do when he had the opportunity to show that he is in fact a law-and-order president. He is also an extremely disrespectful — and his rhetoric is racist. His rhetoric is dangerous. And, in fact, because of his actions, people are on the streets even more angry. I believe that this president has incited most of what we see happening today. He does not know how, nor does he care, to bring people together. Instead, he wants to send the military to the streets, because I don’t even think he knows how to actually work on relationships between humans and bring people together, and especially not as it relates to race relations.
I am happy to see that those individuals, one who actually — he actually bought into office — that they would be courageous enough to speak out, because wrong is wrong. And if you are a person of good moral standards, you should speak truth to power. And so, that is what we have seen happen, and I am very, very grateful to those people who have done that. I wish they had done it earlier, when they heard — because, as Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them. And now we know that we can actually believe who Donald Trump said he was. And now November is coming, and I hope people are getting themselves prepared to do what’s necessary to take back our country.
AMY GOODMAN: Tamika Mallory, we want to thank you for being with us, activist and former national co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, co-founder of the social justice organization Until Freedom. She talked about Breonna Taylor. We’re going to go extensively more into her case. When we come back, we’re going to Louisville, Kentucky, where thousands are protesting, for more than a week, in a row, seven days, demanding justice not only for George Floyd, but for two Black Louisville residents killed by police, including Breonna Taylor, the EMT police shot dead in her own home. Stay with us.