Spike Lee has reacted to the police killing of George Floyd by making a short film titled 3 Brothers – Radio Raheem, Eric Garner And George Floyd, about black men killed by police officers.
The minute and a half-long Spike Lee Joint was released Sunday and begins with text on screen asking “Will history stop repeating itself?”
The movie combines video of the fictional character Radio Raheem from the writer-director’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing, with bystander footage of the police killings of Eric Garner in New York City and George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The film shows Garner, an African American man suspected of illegally selling cigarettes on the street, who died after being wrestled to the ground and choked by New York City officers in 2014, as he cried out “I can’t breathe.”
Then it cuts to Radio Raheem being choked to death by officers during a fight scene in Do the Right Thing, before it cuts to footage of George Floyd pleading “I can’t breathe,” as officer Derek Chauvin held him down with a knee on his neck.
"The attack on black bodies has been here from the get-go," says filmmaker Spike Lee, responding to protests over George Floyd's death. "…I am not condoning all this other stuff but I understand why people are doing what they are doing." https://t.co/K5Gzn1gRT0 pic.twitter.com/sxnZJ9xRpi
— Don Lemon Tonight (@DonLemonTonight) June 1, 2020
Lee appeared Sunday night on CNN to discuss 3 Brothers. He told Don Lemon that Radio Raheem was based on the 1983 death of Michael Stewart, a 25-year-old graffiti artist, who was arrested for allegedly tagging a subway wall. Stewart, who was black, died after a struggle with New York City Transit Police officers. Six officers were tried in the case and acquitted by an all-white jury.
Nearly 37 years later, Lee said not much has changed. Asked about the protests and riots happening around the country in response to George Floyd’s death, Lee said he’s not surprised.
“Every time something jumps off and we don’t get our justice, people are reacting the way they feel they have to, to be heard,” Lee explained. “What we’re seeing today is not new.”
He added that people are fed up with “the attack on black bodies.”
“It’s a devaluation and a dehumanization of black lives, and this guy we got in the White House, he’s not helping,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker added, referring to President Trump.
Despite being frustrated about the current racial and political climates in the U.S., Lee said he hopes things will improve once the country emerges from coronavirus lockdowns.
“We’ve gotta move forward. This pandemic has really demonstrated, which a lot of people didn’t know, the gaps between the haves and the have nots,” Lee said. “We cannot go back to the same old stuff. We can’t do it, we can’t do it, we can’t do it.”