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George Floyd death: Minneapolis official Andrea Jenkins sings Amazing Grace and calls racism 'public health issue'

Danielle Zoellner
Getty Images for New York Magazi

Minneapolis City Council vice president Andrea Jenkins sang Amazing Grace in honour of George Floyd during the Minneapolis presser before declaring racism a “public health issue”.

The politician was the first African American openly transgender woman to be elected into public office, and she used her voice on Thursday to comment on the death of George Floyd on Thursday.

She opened her speech at Minneapolis’ press conference with a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace. The moment mirrored that of when former President Barack Obama sang the song during his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, an African American pastor who was one of nine shot and killed at a Charleston church in 2015.

“I want to offer some Amazing Grace to ... the entire Floyd family,” she said.

The politician then called Mr Floyd’s death a “senseless” and “tragic loss of black life” before imploring her colleagues to make efforts to stop future black Americans from dying.

“I am asking my colleagues, the mayor, anyone else who is concerned about the state of affairs in our community to declare a state of emergency declaring racism as a public health issue,” Ms Jenkins said.

“Until we name this virus, this disease that has infected America for the past 400 years, we will never, ever resolve this issue,” she added.

She went on to add that the black community felt like there was “a knee on all of our collective necks, a knee that says black lives don’t matter.”

Protests broke out on Tuesday and Wednesday evening following the news of Mr Floyd’s death. On Wednesday night, people were seen performing acts of looting and arson on local businesses.

Although Ms Jenkins supported protesters’ rights to protest what happened to Mr Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, she asked for protests to remain peaceful to protect city residents.

“You have no right to perpetrate violence and harm on the very communities that you say that you are standing up for. We need peace and calm in our streets and I am begging you for that calm,” she said.

Mr Floyd died on Monday evening after he was arrested by police for alleged forgery. Disturbing video emerged after the arrest after a police officer’s placed his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes.

In the video, Mr Floyd is heard saying he can’t breathe. He later died.

The Minneapolis Police Department swiftly fired the four officers at the scene of the arrest, but now the FBI was looking into the death of Mr Floyd and if a criminal case is warranted against the officers involved.

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