Though news coverage may have unfortunately waned in recent days, protests continue across the country as activists young and old continue to push for social justice with an emphasis on eradicating police brutality.
And as the country saw with the police murder of George Floyd, these all-too-routine instances of fatal brutality at the hands of law enforcement are often accompanied by heartbreaking pleas from victims, including one frequently heard at protests for years now: "I can't breathe."
A new piece from the New York Times contains the findings of research showing the frequency of that phrase. Per the report, at least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody after saying "I can't breathe" over the past decade. The victims included people ranging in age from 19 to 65, with more than half of them confirmed to be Black. Furthermore, the majority of people died after being confronted by police for purported reasons including "nonviolent infractions," 911 calls from others claiming "suspicious behavior," or mental health.
And for anyone reading this who might be quick to defend police, the NYT report also makes mention of the proven dubiousness of claims within departments nationwide that people who say "I can't breathe" during an arrest are merely exaggerating. Furthermore, the years-long pattern of officers almost never being held wholly accountable for their own violence is pointed out, with particular emphasis placed on examples of cops walking away without murder charges when a victim clearly expressed breathing difficulties.
Read the full NYT report from Mike Baker, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Manny Fernandez, and Michael LaForgia here. And for more on how to get involved in the push for police accountability, consider the National Police Accountability Project put together by the National Lawyers Guild.