Historian and director, Christian Delage is director of the Institute for the History of the Present Time (IHTP). Her work focuses on the issue of image as evidence, and more specifically in relation to violence against African-Americans.
What was your reaction when you saw the video showing the assassination of George Floyd?
The first video that was broadcast, on which we see Derek Chauvin, officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, deliberately suffocating George Floyd, African-American citizen, for long seconds, causes amazement. We are struck by the calmness and determination of the policeman, imperturbable in the face of the cries of George Floyd. There is a form of dehumanization of the other which is unbearable. A second video began to circulate, showing, near this policeman, one of his colleagues, Tou Thao, who does not move and seems to monitor the traffic around, probably to make sure that there are not too many witnesses . However, it does not occur when a passerby films.
"For anyone who has seen these terrible images, no doubt: this is a willful murder"
These images confirm what we see on another video, taken across the street, showing that three other police officers present let him do it. The police’s homicide was therefore accompanied by a form of complicity for his colleagues, owing to the failure to assist persons in danger. For anyone who has seen these terrible images, there is no doubt that this is intentional homicide, the victim having made it clear to the police that he could no longer breathe – and therefore that his life was in danger. However, it took several days for the police to be arrested and for the Hennepin County prosecutor, where Floyd died in hospital, to charge him with "murder (at 3e degree) and manslaughter ”.
Beyond the emotion provoked by these images, what is striking is that in addition to the images filmed by passers-by, there is a video of a policeman who had a camera carried – the images are incidentally neutral with regard to the event – and images from two surveillance cameras that operated at the East 38 junctionth Street and Chicago Boulevard, where the arrest is located. So we have a significant set of videos, which is rare in this kind of case.
These videos remind others of police brutality against African-Americans. What role does the image play in these matters?
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