Brownsville-based muralist Marcus Castro saw unrest spreading across the country after watching footage of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for over eight minutes. In response to the resurgence of collective trauma into the national psyche, he decided to do something to bring people together.
Floyd lost his life on May 25 after Chauvin used a knee-to-neck restraint to pin him on the ground. Floyd had allegedly attempted to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby market. Use of knee-to-neck restraints are allowed in some circumstances in Minnesota, though some law enforcement in the aftermath of the video’s circulation has called out Chauvin’s use of force.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin, currently facing a third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charge, continued to pin Floyd to the ground with his knee for 2 minutes and 53 seconds after he became unresponsive. The three colleagues who assisted Chauvin in holding Floyd down have not been charged with a crime.
“It’s beautiful to see how all of us in Brownsville are coming together in a positive way — that we’re still in this together,” said Castro, 26, standing in front of the mural in an alley next to Immaculate Conception Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m tired of seeing the death of another human being, and as hard as it may sound, the death of another black man, of just another black man, too many.”
The mural is hashtagged #icantbreathe and commemorates Floyd’s transition into the next life for the community to remember. “The butterflies are something that catch all of our eyes — if a little kid passes by, they’ll be more interested in it. It’s something we can all enjoy and it symbolizes spreading your wings, now being free,” said Castro.
Castro’s friend Laura reached out to him over the weekend and gave him money to buy the paint. “I saw a black and white mural in Minneapolis, and I thought about Marcus. If he did a Kobe Bryant one, why can’t he do one for George Floyd? So I reached out to him, I sent him some money for the spray paint” she said on Tuesday.
Artists and advocates in the community are hoping to plant the seed for change locally. “Nobody should be scared every time a police officer gets behind them when they’re driving somewhere. And many do, even if they’re not doing anything wrong,” said Castro.
“I’m not saying all police officers are the same, but what I am saying is that all of us people — we’re all the same and we shouldn’t be treated differently. If any of this will serve as a stepping stone or at least a reminder; if at least one kid walks down this alleyway has a reminder about what happened — not necessarily the image, but what it stands for — that’s more than enough for me.”