All protest movements have slogans. George Floyd’s has a number: 8:46
Eight minutes, 46 seconds is the length of time prosecutors say Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was pinned to the ground under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee before he died last week.
In the days since, outraged protesters, allies and sympathetic companies have seized on the detail as a quiet way to honor Floyd at a time of angry and sometimes violent clashes with police. Even as prosecutors have said little about how they arrived at the precise number, it has fast grown into a potent symbol of the suffering Floyd — and many other black men — have experienced at the hands of police.
In Boston and Tacoma, Washington, demonstrators this week lay down on streets staging “die-ins” for precisely 8 minutes, 46 seconds. In Houston, churchgoers held candles and bowed their heads in silence, experiencing the crawl of time.
ViacomCBS, owner of MTV and Nickelodeon, stopped its programming earlier this week to air a silent, somber video honoring Floyd for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
Google asked employees to pause Wednesday for the nearly 9 minutes of silence “as a visceral reminder of the injustice inflicted on Mr. Floyd and so many others,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a letter to employees.
“Our black community is hurting, and many of us are searching for ways to stand up for what we believe, and reach out to people we love to show solidarity,” he said.
Pausing for a full 8 minutes, 46 seconds helps turn the abstract into a reality, said Monica Cannon-Grant, the founder of Violence in Boston Inc., which organized a Tuesday protest that included the minutes of silence.
“You find that that’s an extremely long time to have someone have their knee in the side of your neck,” Cannon-Grant said.