George Floyd is dead. He was murdered because he was black. 46-year-old Floyd was choked by a Minneapolis police officer during an arrest. George Floyd is not the first victim of black police brutality: According to the data platform mappingpoliceviolence.org 1,000 people are killed by the police in the USA alone – every year. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people. 99% of the killings from 2013 to 2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime. Racially motivated police violence is a worldwide problem and it has often resulted in murder. Here are four names from across the world that we will never forget.
Marcus Omofuma, 1973 – 1999
Marcus Omofuma was born in Nigeria, Africa, and died somewhere in the European airspace between Austria and Bulgaria.
It is May 1, 1999 and Marcus Omofuma is taken by three Austrian policemen in a bus to the airport Vienna-Schwechat. He is to be deported today. Five years earlier, Marcus Omofuma had to flee from his home country Nigeria because his life was threatened there by the violent “Ogboni-Union”, he says. Omofuma initially lived in Germany for several years, but his asylum application was finally rejected there. He fled further to Austria, but the Austrian authorities did not recognize the persecution by the “Ogboni-Union” as a reason for asylum, either.
On that 1 May 1999 Marcus Omofuma was only 25 years old. Arriving at the airport in Vienna, the police want to take him from the bus to the plane, but Omufuma does not want to board. At least that is what the three policemen will later say. So they tie up Omofuma and carry him, because he can’t walk anymore, into the plane. The other plane passengers later state in court that Marcus Omofuma was not a danger at all. Nevertheless, the police treat him with increasing brutality: they not only tie Omofuma up, but also tape his mouth, glue one nostril shut and restrict his chest. The three policemen do not use official police equipment, but utensils they had bought privately: leucoplast, adhesive tapes, and Velcro tapes.
Marcus Omofuma’s face is taped up, he can no longer speak. His chest is fixed so tightly that he is finding it more and more difficult to breathe. Finally, he suffocates and dies somewhere in the airspace between Vienna and Bulgaria, where the plane lands. A week later Marcus Omofuma would have celebrated his 26th birthday.
Omofuma’s murderers, the three Austrian policemen, are convicted, but get off lightly: they only had to spend eight months in prison – after that they were allowed to continue working as policemen.
Mark Duggan, 1981 – 2011
Mark Duggan was born in England, Europe, he grew up in England and he died in England. He was shot in the chest by a British policeman.
Mark Duggan, like many others, is out in the London borough of Tottenham on a summer evening, August 4, 2011. It is about 6 pm. and still bright, everything is clearly visible. The British police stop the taxi Mark Duggan is travelling in. The taxi, Duggan and the police are in one of the few streets in London that is not covered by public video surveillance. Witnesses later claim that the police sent the rest of the passers-by in the street away.
So Mark Duggan is now all alone with the police, only the taxi driver is still in the car. He later testifies that Duggan gets out of the taxi and wants to run away. Instead of preventing him from escaping or chasing him, a policeman immediately starts shooting. Duggan falls to the ground only a few steps away from the taxi. Two shots hit him, one in the chest – Duggan dies.
The policemen claimed that Mark Duggan had shot at them with a gun. However, a police report later admitted that the gun found at the scene had not been fired, Duggan couldn’t have fired at all.
According to the taxi driver, the police officers shot Mark Duggan without warning. He was only 29 years old.
Oury Jalloh, 1968 – 2005
Oury Jalloh burned to death in a cell of a police station in Germany. He is said to have set himself on fire. But without a lighter. And with handcuffed hands.
Oury Jalloh, born in Sierra Leone in Africa, is sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment for drug trafficking in Germany. Before his imprisonment, Jalloh is being held in a detention cell of a police station in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. On January 7, 2005 he burns alive in the police cell. He allegedly set himself on fire and thus committed suicide, according to the police.
But, over time, doubts about the account given by the police are growing.
At first the police say that Oury Jalloh set his mattress on fire. The investigators do not find a lighter at the scene of the crime, though. Two days later a lighter turns up, but its fibers match neither the fibers of the mattress nor the fibers of Jalloh´s clothing. Moreover, Jalloh was handcuffed at the time of his death.
Later it came to light that the video recordings of the crime scene cut off at the exact point that the investigators entered the cell.
Much later, 15 years after Jalloh’s death, a radiologist takes another look at the old X-rays and photographs of the body. The radiologist finds out that Oury Jalloh was severely maltreated before his death: Someone broke his skull, his nasal bone, his septum and a rib. The public prosecutor’s office even notes in a file that Jalloh may have been dead before the fire.
Several years before these findings, the head of the police department in which Jalloh died had been sentenced to a fine for negligent homicide. Despite the new findings from the X-rays, the court in charge refused to hold a new trial. Oury Jalloh was 36 years old.
George Floyd, 1974 – 2020
George Floyd was 46 years old when he was murdered on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, USA. A policeman knelt on his neck until he choked to death. George Floyd is the most recent prominent victim of black police brutality.
Racism kills across the world – how many more have to die?