A focus on George Floyd’s criminal background diverts from the message of the protests. He was unarmed, handcuffed, and clearly incapacitated but still perceived as a threat. The four officers had no preconceived evidence that he was a threat, only that he had committed a petty forgery. In context, his past felonies- mainly minor jail sentences for drug possession in a separate state- are irrelevant to the outcome.
The parallels between Floyd and other publicized victims of police brutality cannot be ignored. Detractors would like you to think that a twelve-year-old with a toy gun or a helpless bipolar woman constitutes a threat worthy of excessive force, so it follows that a panicking heavily built black man would be an easy target.
Focusing on their criminality is a common tactic used to justify unnecessary use of force. It’s informed by a victim-blaming and too often racist mentality that is rarely applied to white victims in similar cases.
Few are saying Floyd was perfect. What is clear is that his death was an avoidable tragedy.