AFA President Sara Nelson Statement on Justice for George Floyd, Attacks on Protestors and Press

Washington, D.C. (May 29, 2020) — AFA International President Sara Nelson released the following statement on protestors demanding accountability for police violence, especially for the killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis:

“From the day a gang lynched Emmett Till to the day a police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck while he begged for mercy, too little has changed in sixty five years in America. We know so many names today. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Nina Pop, and so many more, names going back hundreds of years until the mind numbs at the bigotry and hate and ignorance behind all those murders. It sickens any person with a heart. It sears any person with a soul. It must stop, and we must stop it.

“We cannot expect Black, brown and indigenous people to stop it. They are the victims of unimaginable violence and oppression that challenges the very idea of America. That violence destroys families and sews fear and mistrust. It upends our communities and perpetuates racism and oppression.

“The rage coursing through the streets of Minneapolis and other cities is born from hundreds of years of oppression, exploitation and violence boiling over. I do not cheer any form of violence, but we must be clear eyed about where core responsibility lies. 

“Millions have seen clear video of a police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck while others stood calmly by. When peaceful protestors took to the streets, state actions escalated the situation rather than calming it by responding with violence: assaulting, gassing and arresting protestors.  Police even arrested a CNN news crew during a live broadcast, further undermining our first amendment rights. The state escalated the situation rather than calming it.

“As aviation’s first responders, Flight Attendants are trained to de-escalate incidents in the air. De-escalation is the minimum we can expect from law enforcement. We know this is possible. When heavily-armed mostly white protestors stormed the Minnesota state capitol and threatened lawmakers just weeks ago, police were able to maintain calm and did not take aggressive action.

“As a white woman, mother, wife and daughter, I have never experienced racism. I recognize what white privilege has meant in my life. But I, like millions of other white Americans, have witnessed violent racism. Most often we have witnessed it from the safety of our homes and yet been heart sick by it.

“But tears are not enough. 

“This is a damnable thread running through the length of American history. It is only now more visible because of the ever-present cell phones that record our shame. And it is our shame – the shame of white Americans who have tolerated, or dismissed, justified, or, God forbid, encouraged and participated in violence against innocent Black, brown and indigenous people for hundreds of years.

“So, I speak now to my fellow white Americans whose hearts hurt at every new video, every new story. I speak to everyone who knows, in their heart of hearts, the revulsion that comes with understanding that this is not unusual; it’s the norm in our country.

“Our union's mission statement compels us to act for the safety of our members and the freedom and well-being of working people. Unions play a critical role for our country in condemning racism and taking action to end it. Throughout our history racism has been exploited by the ruling class to promote the idea of competition among those who do the work of our country and create the value that makes a few people rich. 

“We often say in our unions "an injury to one, is an injury to all." That statement is a moral imperative to all who believe in the promise of a free society. As American author Emma Lazarus wrote, "Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Our union will begin discussions today on the actions we must take to defend our members' rights, safety and freedom. Acting for our members means that we act to defend the freedoms of every person, especially those who face systemic oppression and state-sanctioned violence. We ask all Americans to join us and contribute to the solution."