Meet Phillipe Cunningham: one of the few out-transgender people to sit on an American city council. Cunningham serves the city of Minneapolis, site of the George Floyd killing, and has declared LGBTQ support for justice in the case.
In an interview with the Windy City Times, Cunningham detailed his reaction to Floyd’s death, and why queer people join in the call for justice.
“I’m Black and trans-masculine, and I navigate the world being seen as a Black man and am treated as such,” Cunningham said in his interview. “When I saw the video, a ton of trauma came up and I was so angry. I was angry as a Black man in America, and I was angry as a city councilmember; I have put in hours and hours and hours of work trying to make the smallest change within the institution of policing in this city. When I saw that—knowing that efforts have been pretty futile—seeing the video absolutely enraged me. But it also confirmed that we need an alternate form of public safety outside of policing.”
Regarding the queer community in Minneapolis, Cunningham struck a note of solidarity. “Trans and queer business owners are concerned about their spaces,” he acknowledged, “but they’re also concerned about getting justice and others’ safety. We have a very large queer and trans community here, so they’re, like, ‘That’s our people out there.’ So that’s what I’m hearing: People concerned about their own businesses but also about safety and justice.”
Cunningham went on to call for the three officers involved in Floyd’s murder to “be arrested and charged and convicted” for their actions. He added: “As elected officials, we are calling for the governor to take authority over the case, and that attorney general have prosecutorial authority. These officers should be held accountable.”
Finally, Mr. Cunningham struck a note of hope that despite the current social unrest in regards to Floyd’s killing, the incident could become a turning point for the nation.
“For those who have lost hope, I would say, ‘I don’t blame you,'” Cunningham concedes. “When we look across the country and see all the efforts and initiatives that have taken place over the last decade or so—including President Obama’s 21st-century policing—there’s no evidence that any of them worked, in terms of changing police behavior or culture. That is why we need folks to get behind alternate systems of public safety. When folks are in distress and are in need (overdoses, mental-health crises), we should have more appropriate systems in place that don’t escalate violence or perpetuate a cycle of criminalization.”
At the time of this writing, only one officer in the George Floyd case, Derek Chauvin, faces any charges. Police arrested Chauvin last week, charging him with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter–the first-ever police officer charged with the death of a black civilian in the history of Minnesota. State officials have also said they anticipate further charges for other officers involved in the death of Mr. Floyd.