Over the weekend, protests formed in cities across the country to demand justice following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was brutally killed at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The demonstrations speak to the broader pattern of violence and injustice the black community has faced repeatedly throughout history; however, people haven’t lost sight of who Floyd was and what his life meant to those around him.
On Saturday, Ruth Thunstorm, one of Floyd’s former bosses, spoke to radio personality Brea Frank and shared what Floyd was like, calling him, “friendly,” “sweet,” “caring” and “respectful.” He worked in Conga Bistro in Minneapolis, run by Thunstrom and her husband, and in a Spanish-language interview, she emphasized how much he meant to both his coworkers and the regular patrons at the restaurant.
“Everyone who knew him, everyone at Conga loved him. He never had problems with anyone. On the contrary, he was a really attentive person,” she said in Spanish. “If something happened, he would be really friendly and go and talk to that person… Everyone loved him: the employees, us and the clients. He got along with everyone, he was excellent. He wasn’t a rude person, he was never aggressive, I don’t have words to describe his qualities.”
She said that she found out about the news of his death through a Facebook chat with the employees of Conga. A woman employed at Conga sent the video and said, “I hope it’s not Floyd.”
When Thunstrom finally watched the clip, she said she couldn’t make out Floyd’s face clearly, but instantly recognized his voice. Still, she didn’t want to accept it was him. “We didn’t want to admit it was him. Watching the video was terrifying, the way he’s begging…”
“We don’t want anyone to get killed or anything to happen to anyone, but especially to him, and that way. That police officer didn’t have any pity. Even with him and people telling him, with him begging there, the police officer didn’t care to keep asphyxiating him. This is huge, huge,” she said. She went on to discuss the fight for justice, saying that Floyd was peaceful, and calling some of the damage that’s resulted in Minneapolis “lamentable.” She grew tearful toward the end of the conversation as she remembered how close her husband and Floyd had been.
The tributes to Floyd have abounded; he’s been called “very loving” and a “gentle giant.” His death would have been a grotesque injustice, regardless of his personality, but the fact that he was so beloved makes the memory of what police did to him all the more tragic.