George Floyd and Ma’Khia Bryant should be alive today

On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis Police Officer charged in the death of George Floyd, was found guilty on all three counts: second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter. The video of Floyd’s lynching on a public street in broad daylight was too much for any jury to ignore, and they came together to render justice in that case.

Twenty minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced, Columbus Police were dispatched to a call from Legion Lane on the east side, where just a few seconds after arriving an officer shot Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, four times. She later died at an area hospital.

The whiplash of these two almost simultaneous events is almost too much to comprehend. Police body camera footage shows Ma’Khia had a knife, and police policy, as stated by interim chief Michael Woods at a subsequent press conference, is that police can use deadly force if it appears someone poses a threat to someone else.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is now investigating this shooting, and it will be up to them to decide whether it followed policy. But if it did, what does that say about the policy?

How many times over the course of history have teenagers gotten into fights? How many times have teachers, coaches, or social workers broken up teenage fights without resorting to deadly force? Why were bullets and not de-escalation the first instead of the last resort?

Witnesses on the scene said Ma’Khia is who called the police seeking protection from two other girls said to be threatening her. Yet Ma’Khia is who ended up dead. She was a foster child – a population of children known to be among the most vulnerable members of our society.

Columbus must do better. Vulnerable children must be cared for, and if they find themselves in trouble, they should be able to call counselors and social workers instead of police.

According to Mapping Police Violence, Columbus Police have killed 46 people since 2013. Of those, 72% were Black, even though the city’s population is only 28% Black. Over half were under the age of 30, including nine teenagers.

Meanwhile, this same police force refused to respond in a timely manner to thousands of maskless young white people overturning cars near the Ohio State campus, and spent thousands of dollars in taxpayer money using police helicopters to write “CPD” in the sky above the same neighborhood where they killed Ma’Khia Bryant a few days later.

George Floyd should be alive today. So should Ma’Khia Bryant, Andre Hill, Casey Goodson, Henry Green, Tyre King, and many more. We mourn as their families mourn and demand a new approach to keeping our communities safe.

But beyond policing, we must work toward a much more equitable community. Columbus can be a city of opportunity for wealthy mainly white families, while BIPOC communities are subject to environmental injustice, disproportionate impacts from covid, and terrorism at the hands of police. We need to see a shift from massive spending on police to a massive investment in a shared vision of community that works for all.

Simply Living is about sustainability. It is not sustainable to have residential neighborhoods next to an exploding paint factory with a long track record of environmental and safety violations. It is not sustainable to have a third of our community subject to death by police on the basis of race. It is not sustainable to have a city where rich people live 26 years longer than poor people. These divisions by race and class must end.

We believe a better world is possible, and that we cannot address the climate crisis without also addressing the crisis of racial and economic inequality. The key to a better world is to create it for ALL of us. There is no environmental justice without racial and economic justice. Help us use this moment to begin the critical work of building the future that all of us deserve — together!

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