Eight staff members working at the jail that held Derek Chauvin have filed discrimination charges with Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights, claiming that they were barred with guarding the former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of murdering George Floyd.
The eight plaintiffs, all people of color, say that officials at the Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul only allowed white officers to have any contact with Chauvin. According to the New York Times, the corrections officers allege that the superintendent of the facility, identified as Steve Lydon, did not even allow them to be on the same same floor as Chauvin solely because of their race.
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The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis, citing the complaint, reports the plaintiffs allege that they were told that their presence around Chauvin would be a potential “liability.”
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“I understood that the decision to segregate us had been made because we could not be trusted to carry out our work responsibilities professionally around the high-profile inmate — solely because of the color of our skin,” wrote one acting sergeant, who is Black, according to the complaint. “I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
The Times obtained a statement from Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Roy Magnuson in which Lydon said he decided to keep nonwhite employees away from Chauvin out of fear of “heighten[ing] ongoing trauma.”
According to the statement, Lydon said he realized after 45 minutes he’d made a mistake, after which he reversed course and said he was sorry.
But the Times reports the corrections officers said the move had lasted multiple days.
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George Floyd and his alleged killer, Derek Chauvin
Chauvin became nationally known earlier this month when a video of Floyd being arrested by Minneapolis police officers went viral on social media, sparking widespread horror.
In the video, Chauvin can be seen with his knee firmly placed on the back of Floyd’s neck. Floyd was handcuffed and lying on his stomach next to a Minneapolis patrol car.
Other officers held Floyd down, with Chauvin placing his weight on Floyd’s neck with his left knee.
RELATED: George Floyd Spoke About How Good It Is To Be a Black Man in Minneapolis on the Day He Died
For minutes, Floyd can be heard in the video groaning in pain while bystanders plead with Chauvin to let up. Throughout the video, he repeatedly asks for help. He tells the officers that he cannot breathe and says that “everything hurts.” The video continued even after Floyd was visibly still.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
RELATED: George Floyd’s Family On His Memory And Preserving His Legacy
Chauvin, 44, was initially charged with third-degree murder. The charges were later upgraded to include second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter. He has not entered a plea, and will return to court on June 29. His attorney did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment.
Chauvin has since been moved. After the officers filed their discrimination lawsuit, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office told the Star-Tribune that Lydon had been temporarily removed from his position as the claim moves forward.
PEOPLE was unable to immediately reach Lydon and the complaint does not name an attorney authorized to speak on his behalf.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.