(WFRV) – State and local officials are responding to the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck in Minneapolis.
Related: UPDATE: Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin arrested in connection with George Floyd’s death, charged with murder
Governor Tony Evers
Editor’s Note: Gov. Evers initially responded to the death of George Floyd on May 29. Below is an updated statement from June 2.
“Over the past few days, we have been grieving as another Black life was extinguished before our eyes. His name was George Floyd. He was 46. His life matters. His family deserves justice. And he should still be alive today.
But his death was not an anomaly. We hear the echo of the words of Eric Garner. We relive the pain of the death of Black Wisconsinites like Dontre Hamilton, Sylville Smith, Ernest Lacy, and Tony Robinson. We listen to the call and repeat, answered by generations of Black voices who’ve marched before in these very same streets.
George Floyd’s death—and the lives taken before him—are symptomatic of the disease we’ve failed to adequately treat for four centuries. Racism has never really gone away—it has only manifested itself in different ways, from incarceration rates to health outcome disparities, the wage gap to education inequity, and in good intentions.
These past few days, millions have gathered to memorialize George Floyd, to demand change and accountability, and to call on this country to keep its promise of justice, fairness, and equity.
There was no empathy or humanity in George Floyd’s death, but there must be empathy and humanity in our response to it. We must see the trauma, fear, and exhaustion of being Black in our state and in our country. We must reject the efforts of those who seek to undermine and distract from the pain of generations of injustice. We must condemn all those who encourage violence against Black lives. We must offer our compassion, we must offer our support, but most of all, we must offer our action.
We can start with accountability for the unacceptable use of force by certain law enforcement officers in our country and our state. So, I am calling on the Legislature to immediately pass Assembly Bill 1012 that would reform our use of force policies by prioritizing preserving life and minimizing the use of force and send it to my desk for signature.
I am also calling for local government leaders to join us in demanding change, and I am asking for partners to step up in every corner of this state and put in the work that needs to be done.
This legislation is an important first step, but we know the solution to racism isn’t in one bill or one person. I know I don’t have all the answers–no one does. This is on all of us, together.
We need systemic change to address the racism in our state and our country. We must be willing to face it, with clear eyes and open hearts, recognizing that folks who look like me have been part of creating, exacerbating, and benefiting from the systems that we must now turn to dismantle.
We must confront society’s comfort with racism. We must re-establish trust with communities of color. We must be willing to listen, we must be willing to be uncomfortable, we must be willing to do the work.
We must lay bare the notion that this is not who we are. It is who we have been. It is who we are. But it is not who we have to be tomorrow.
I have seen hope in those who’ve joined this cause in support, who’ve lent a hand to a neighbor, who’ve shown up with brooms and dustbins in hand to help clean up our neighborhoods. We must use this dark moment to begin to be an example for the rest of the nation. Wisconsin will lead, we will listen, and we are going to put in the work.
Please be kind to each other, support each other, and keep each other safe tonight and in the days ahead. We have work to do tomorrow, together.”
Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes
“Like so many other Black lives in this country, George Floyd’s life was stolen from his family and from his community.
Our state is no stranger to this violence. In George Floyd’s death, we remember those Black Wisconsinites who we have lost to systemic racism and police violence.
We must recognize that, especially in our state, acts of systemic violence are happening every day, and they include more than just fatal police violence. The poverty, poor environmental conditions, and inequitable access to health care experienced by Black communities and other communities of color are a form of systemic violence, too.
Those who are protesting this injustice are doing so in order to save this nation, and they should be protected. To see a city burn on the outside is devastating but hardly compares to the implosion brought by systemic inequity and injustice. Like internal bleeding, you may not see it, but the outcome will be catastrophic if left untreated.
People are hurting. People are tired. We are done dying. I am tired of addressing the disregard for Black life in this country.
Those who question the frustration and anger of communities of color must ask themselves why they are not frustrated, why they are not angered by the injustices carried out in their name.
People want to live in a world free of hate. We want decency, true justice, equity, equality, and opportunity. These are all worth fighting for, and as Lieutenant Governor, I remain committed to helping lead that fight.
So to the Wisconsinites and people across the country watching pain unfold in real time, I ask you to not just watch, but to speak out and to act.
The idea that things should be better, not worse, is worth demonstration.”
Attorney General Josh Kaul
“What America witnessed happening to George Floyd in Minneapolis was not, in any true sense of the phrase, law enforcement. It was torture and murder, under color of law. Justice demands that those involved in this depraved crime be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
“Given the repeated instances of police violence that have resulted in the deaths of several citizens—a disproportionate share of whom have been black men—we ask that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department conduct an investigation into the patterns and practices of racially discriminatory and violent policing in the MPD. The Department should also be prepared to use the strongest tools available—including the use of court-supervised consent decrees—to ensure oversight, enforcement, and accountability on an ongoing basis.
“Those responsible must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law in order to serve justice for George Floyd and his loved ones. And we must work toward justice for the community, which means ensuring that the MPD accounts for and eliminates any unconstitutional police practices. It is imperative that the Department of Justice do its part toward that end.”
This statement is part of a letter submitted to the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice asking that they conduct an investigation into the patterns and practices of racially discriminatory and violent policing in the Minneapolis Police Department.
U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
“The police action that resulted in the death of George Floyd was reprehensible and the officers involved should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The resulting anger and frustration are understandable and peaceful protests are justified, but destructive riots are not. Riots and senseless destruction must end immediately. The federal government and the Department of Homeland Security should use all their resources and authorities to assist frontline local and state officials in countering this dystopian display of anarchy.”
Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith
“Over the last several days I have received many calls, emails and media inquiries regarding the videotaped police use of force incident in Minneapolis that resulted in the death of Mr. George Floyd. Our deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Floyd and his family and friends. This was a tragic incident and it should not have happened.
I want to assure the Green Bay community that the Green Bay Police Department is doing everything we can to keep every member of our community safe and to ensure that our officers use force appropriately, and only in those situations in which it is absolutely necessary.
The men and women of the Green Bay Police Department have worked diligently and will continue to work to earn community trust and form meaningful partnerships in the community based on mutual respect. We have developed strong working partnerships with many community leaders and organizations that help guide us, give us their perspective, and help us to provide the best service possible to the residents of Green Bay.
What occurred in Minneapolis is devastating. In Wisconsin and specifically here in Green Bay we train our officers to ensure the overall safety and well-being of all people. We train our officers that it their duty and responsibility to constantly re-evaluate the use of force and use only that amount of force necessary to overcome resistance. In Green Bay we also train the concept of “officer overrides” which calls on partner officers to take over an incident if an involved officer is inappropriately using force, or not handling a situation properly. We have scheduled refresher training this week for all our supervisors in Use of Force, specifically the kind of force used by the Minneapolis officers. I want to make sure nothing like that ever happens here.
As a department we constantly evaluate our practices and review all use of force incidents, and as Chief of Police I personally review the circumstances of every use of force that occurs in Green Bay. We recently provided training on constitutional policing, de-escalation and the concept that each of us has inherent “human dignity” that must be respected in all situations. The Green Bay community has high standards for our officers and we hold our officers to those high standards at all times. Training and proper hiring is critical, but I believe it is meaningless without accountability. Our system of auditing, reviewing, ongoing training and discipline holds officers at all levels (including me) accountable for our actions.
Tragic incidents like the death of Mr. Floyd erode the trust of law enforcement across the country. Incidents like this can cause fear and mistrust, and harm our police-community relationship. We have a terrific community here in Green Bay, and I think we have earned the community’s support and trust, and I recognize that we need to work on that trust every day, in every interaction we have. We will continue to work hard, together to ensure the City of Green Bay is a great place to live and raise a family.”
Outagamie County Sheriff Clint Kriewaldt
“Over the weekend several Deputies from our Office have responded to assist the Appleton Police Department with demonstrations. As Sheriff, I would like to commend the demonstration participants, as there were only a few minor incidents. I am aware of the anger and frustration that exists in the community and I have been intently listening to the dialogue. This is a time for active listening by law enforcement and it is obvious change needs to occur. As a law enforcement leader in Outagamie County, I have high standards and expectations for our Deputies. I expect them to follow our values of Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Excellence (P.R.I.D.E) in everything they do. In the next several weeks and months, we will be working with community leaders to address any issues of fear and lack of trust in the community. We are committed to building those relationships and regaining the trust and respect that is vital to our Office and the citizens of Outagamie County. It is my hope that our community will receive a sense of justice and peace in the days ahead.”