Unconditional solidarity: Palestinians rally support for family of George Floyd, African-American killed by Minneapolis police

Unconditional solidarity: Palestinians rally support for family of George Floyd, African-American killed by Minneapolis police
4 min read
29 May, 2020
Palestinians rally in support of George Floyd's family after the death of the unarmed African-American by a white officer, as it emerged a Palestinian-American shop owner had called the police.
George Floyd on the floor with Chauvin's knee on his neck [screengrab]
Palestinians have taken to online platforms to express support for the family of George Floyd, an African-American man killed at the hands of a white policeman, after it came to light that it was a Palestinian-American shop owner who had initially called the police.

Owner of Minneapolis store Cup Foods Mahmoud Abumayyaleh admitted that it had been his employee that had called the police on Floyd after he allegedly attempted to pay for cigarettes using a suspected counterfeit twenty dollar bill.

The family-owned business, which has been in the community for 31 years, had had problems with counterfeits in the past.

“I was no [sic] there. The staff that called police followed protocol when he identified the bill was fake. The patron was out of the establishment when the police arrived, he was outside of the establishment which normally never takes place why he was still there were not sure [sic],” Abumayyaleh told CBS’ Minnesota affiliate.

“Most of the times when patrons give us a counterfeit bill they don’t even know it’s fake so when the police are called there is no crime being committed just want [sic] to know where it came from and that’s usually what takes place this was a very circumstantial event that ended in a tragedy and unfortunately we are taking a lot of animosity,” he said.

The business owners have said they have since received death threats and people have threatened to destroy their shop in retaliation, and protests have erupted in front of the store.

But the business owner condemned the actions of the police, calling what they did to Floyd an “execution”.

Floyd, who worked as a security guard, was killed when he was pinned down in the street and held in a chokehold while being arrested by four police officers.

A white police officer called Derek Chauvin had put his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, whilst Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” and bystanders shouting “you’re killing him”.

It is the latest in a string of incidents in the US showing white police officers using violence to subdue, and kill African American men in the country.

Witnesses defended Floyd and said he had not been resisting arrest.

Cup Food owners said that CCTV footage from the store, which they have been asked not to release, shows Floyd was not resisting officers.

The family have offered to pay for Floyd’s funeral expenses.

“We want to offer first and foremost our deepest condolences we want to offer any support whether its financially, socially, spiritually any type of support they need,” Abumayyaleh said.

Abumayyaleh’s inadvertent involvement in the incident, which has prompted fierce protests across the country and condemnation from politicians and leaders across the world, launched a debate online between Palestinians.

Despite the regret expressed by Abumayyaleh, some used the opportunity to point to what they said was anti-Black sentiment in the wider Arab community. 

Twitter user, “Jennineak”, who has a podcast, talked about the notion of anti-black sentiment.

“I am livid that the store owners that called the cops on George Floyd are Palestinian. As if they don’t know better (they do know better). Arabs need to take a long, hard look at themselves. Do not defend this shop. Anti-blackness is a disease,” she wrote.

Elias Jahshan, The New Arab contributor echoed her sentiments, writing:

"Reading news that the person who called the cops on #GeorgeFloyd was Arab-American. Goes to show that racism within Arab (& wider PoC) communities exists and needs to be stamped out. As Arabs we must reflect on how we benefit from proximity to white supremacy. We must do better."

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights pointed to a wider systemic problem in the US, writing on Twitter:

“The Israeli military trains US police in racist and repressive policing tactics, which systematically targets Black and Brown bodies.”

“The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are examples of racialized, systematized violence,” it added.

Parallels were made between black people targeted by law enforcement in America, and Palestinians targeted by IDF soldiers, though some people thought using George Floyd death to talk about Palestine “disrespectful” and urged unconditional solidarity instead.

“I don’t think some of y’all realize how disrespectful it is to say “palestinian kids go through this all the time” about what happened to George Floyd. Uplift the palestinian movement without insulting another,” wrote Twitter user “pharooha”.

Others used art to protest the death of Floyd and send messages of solidarity to his family.

The city of Minneapolis identified the officers allegedly involved as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng.

All four police officers have been fired from the department, but people are calling on them to be held criminally accountable.

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