Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday spoke out against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, saying “being black in America cannot be a death sentence.”
“As a white elected official, I feel a special responsibility to speak out today and to own that obligation that I have to shape public policy in a more equitable direction,” Pritzker said at a COVID-19 briefing in East St. Louis in downstate Illinois. “Being black in America cannot be a death sentence. But it is. And it’s dangerous to pretend otherwise.”
Floyd died Monday after a police officer had his knee on the 46-year-old African American man’s neck. Captured on video, the incident prompted protests and the firings of four officers.
Pritzker said he felt compelled to address Floyd’s death, as well as the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed in February while jogging near his home in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police officers in her home in Kentucky in March. Pritzker also made reference to Christian Cooper, whose video of a woman calling the police on him as he was bird watching in Central Park has become viral.
Pritzker said the four incidents represent events that have happened too many times.
“Yet we as people have not yet found the humanity to stop these vile horrid acts from happening, to truly contend with the racism that permeates our society. and then to root it out,” he said.
The Democratic governor said something must be done to “change that reality to make it so that men like George Floyd are not killed on a street corner gasping for air in broad daylight, one moment alive, and the next moment, gone.
“People deserve to breathe,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker noted the events have happened in the midst of a pandemic that has already disproportionately impacted people of color.
“This moment must become a call of action to Illinoisans, for Americans, to see the humanity in every person, no matter their race, their religion, their socio-economic status, or their sexual orientation,” Pritzker said. “To George Floyd, to his family, may his memory be for a blessing.”