“Well, I saw … what everybody in the world saw, a man being tortured to death while he asked for them to take the knee off the neck because ‘I can’t breathe’.” That is how the lawyer for George Floyd’s family, Benjamin Crump, described his reaction to seeing the graphic video of George Floyd’s killing: “it was torture.”
Crump is right. It was torture. But why is he right to stress that the police did not just murder Floyd — that they tortured him to death? Why does that distinction matter?
I think it matters for a number of reasons. First, it helps us to understand better what torture is, and why it is so repugnant. Second, it emphasises the fact that the torture of others is not just a feature of American empire abroad, but that it characterises how racialised bodies are policed at home. Third, it underscores the political importance of the protests around the world that have been animated by Floyd’s death — not just in the numbers of people involved and the density of their feelings, but in their insistence that Floyd’s voice be heard…….
Dr Nick Cheeseman is a Fellow at the Department of Political & Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU.
Image by Singlespeedfahrer and sourced from Wikimedia.