Reverend William Barber called the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day a “lynching on live stream” and “murder” on the streets on Minneapolis and likened the posture of the officer charged with his death to that of a hunter kneeling in front of his downed prey.

Barber said Sunday that the now-viral video taken by a 17-year-old that showed now-former police officer Derek Chauvin taking a knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as he lay dying and begging for his life “was viscerally reminiscent of the photographs that took place during a lynching.”

Chauvin, Barber said, “posed like a hunter with his prey” as his colleagues, who have not been charged, looked on.

“We all know what racism looks like,” Barber said. “The perpetrators know what racism is, too. That’s why they do it.”

Barber spoke for nearly an hour on Pentecost Sunday during a press conference he held at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, where he serves as pastor.

Barber on late Sunday morning delivered a letter to the nation titled, “Pentecost Amidst Police Brutality, Pandemic, and Poverty. Barber, 56, is a former president of the NC NAACP. In 2013, he helped launch the Moral Monday protests at the state capitol, and one year later he founded Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit that will lead a poor people’s campaign and moral march in Washington, D.C. on June 20.

Calling this an “injustice period,” Barber said he did not support the property damage that has taken place in some parts of the country as a result of demonstrations. He also praised the demonstrators.

“Thank God, the people are in the streets refusing to accept what had been normal for too long,” he said. “Minneapolis, we hear your cries as a collective expression of racial wounds and economic wounds; death-dealing wounds to the poor over and over again, when all we want is to be free and full citizens.”

“Damn I hear you,” he said.

Barber criticized President Trump and his failure to address the COVID pandemic, as well as for calling the demonstrators thugs—“THUG is an acronym for ‘The Hate U Give,” he said. Barber called White House policies a “cynical form of violence.”

Barber said racism, poverty, and a “false moral indignation” fueled by white nationalism are among the interlocking injustices that are “choking the life out of American democracy.”

The pastor said Floyd’s death was traumatic enough following the litany of deaths black people have endured at the hands of the police and self-appointed vigilantes like the ones who murdered Emmitt Till. He pivoted to the ongoing pandemic that’s “wreaking havoc on the poor …especially people of color.”

Even before Floyd’s death, Barber said “more than 100,000 Americans had said, ‘I can’t breathe’ as this disease choked them to death.”

The hulking pastor said the pandemic has “laid bare injustices that we have long viewed as normal,” adding that before the coronavirus devastation, 140 million Americans were enduring poverty and low-income, while 700 people in this country die each day from poverty’s impact.

“That fact alone should traumatize us,” he said.

Barber pointed out that 80 million people in this country are uninsured or underinsured, and as a consequence, “thousands die everywhere for every 500,000 uninsured.”

He pointed to a recent Columbia University study that found that thousands of COVID-19 victims died as a result of a government that refuses to take care of its citizens and accept “greed and the wanton disregard for human life as normal.”

Barber said early testing and targeted tracing would have slowed the spread of the virus, “and yet we did not do it.”

Instead, elected leaders are sending the black and brown citizens back to work to perform jobs deemed essential, but in many instances, employers aren’t providing their low-wage employees with personal protective equipment, paid sick leave, and adequate health care.

Barber said he had recently talked with one employee who told him that working under those conditions “is a form of mass murder.”

Barber said that for too long, police violence that killed Floyd has often been attributed to “a few bad actors.” The nation instead should acknowledge the systemic racism and racial disparities that have resulted in the disproportionate number of death of poor people—particularly black and brown people—from COVID-19.

“It’s systemic. It’s not unintentional,” he said.

Barber said the nation’s wounds cannot be lightly healed, nor can comfort come too quickly. He called for transformative change and hopes that the demonstrators’ “screams, tears, and protests shake the very structure of this nation.”

Barber said the transformative change is possible for this country if America hears the voices of those who are in the streets demanding justice for Floyd, “not with another task force, but with the task of rebuilding the nation rather than going back to a normal that was abnormal in the first place.”

The demonstrations, Barber concluded, “are a signal that change can no longer wait.”

“On Pentecost Day,” he said. “I hope we hear the tongues of this moment, and we change, change, change.”

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at 

One reply on “Rev. Barber Praises George Floyd Demonstrators, Criticizes Trump, Calls for “Transformative Change””

  1. If he is concerned about the virus, why is he praising these people who (besides committing acts of violent crime and property damage, thereby hurting business owners of their own color) are actively SPREADING IT?
    Also, “hulking’ is not a synonym for morbidly obese.

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