Gerald Chambers, at times overcome by grief, recalled George Floyd as a kind and good-hearted man from their time working together at Salvation Army.
Chambers on Tuesday joined nearly 100 people who had gathered at the intersection of Chicago Ave and 38th St. to protest the death of Floyd, who Minneapolis police had detained after receiving a call for forgery.
People began gathering at the intersection ahead of a planned 5 p.m. protest.
A video circulating on social media Monday appeared to show a white police officer with his knee on the neck of Floyd, who can be heard desperately telling the officer he couldn’t breathe. Minnesota elected officials condemned the killing, and the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Investigation are on the case.
Four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wrote in a Twitter post Tuesday afternoon. “This is the right call,” Frey’s Tweet says.
Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated.
— Jacob Frey (@Jacob_Frey) May 26, 2020
Demonstrators at the intersection held signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” while a memorial erected on the sidewalk for Floyd quickly teemed with flowers.
Chambers said he used to work at Salvation Army as a cook where Floyd was also a security guard. “Any time I had a problem, he was always nice,” he recalled, describing him as soft-spoken. “He was never violent with individuals. He was a big guy, he was intimidating by his size, but he’s a very nice guy.”
Chambers and others who gathered Tuesday afternoon said they were angry and emotional.
“When they showed his picture this morning, I cried,” Chambers said.
“My heart is broken,” said Tracy Gordon, who attends Worldwide Outreach for Christ church at the same intersection.
Gordon wore a shirt with the words, “I can’t breathe,” the final words of Eric Garner, the New York Black man who died at the hands of police officers in 2014.
“There’s no reason for that man to be choked to death,” she said, referring to Floyd.
Diva Reynolds, who was in Minneapolis from Ohio on an extended visit with family, said her 9-year-old daughter witnessed the Monday night incident. .
Reynolds said her daughter and another family member had come to the Cup Foods grocery store at the intersection Monday night when police detained Floyd.
“We want justice,” she said. “Not just for one person, but for everybody. Everybody should be safe.”