05/29/2020 13:45 EDT | Updated 05/29/2020 14:48 EDT

Trudeau Weighs In On Minneapolis Protests: ‘Racism Is Real’ In U.S. And Canada

After a video of police pinning down a handcuffed Black man went public, tensions have erupted in the U.S.

Adrian Wyld/CP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on May 29, 2020.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an unusual step Friday, commenting on protests that have erupted in the United States over the death of George Floyd

Bystander video recorded Monday in Minneapolis showed a handcuffed Floyd pinned to the ground with a white police officer’s knee on his neck. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd, who is Black, could be heard saying, over and over.

Floyd was later taken to a hospital, where he died. His shocking death has sparked nightly demonstrations in the midwest city, which have turned violent, and prompted the state governor to call in the National Guard on Thursday. 

Watch: Trudeau on U.S. unrest: ‘Racism is real’. Story continues below video.


Protesters set a Minneapolis police precinct on fire and a CNN reporter and camera crew were arrested on live TV for doing their jobs Friday morning. 

Trudeau made the unsolicited statement at the end of his daily press conference outside his Ottawa home, affirming that racism is real and exists in both the U.S. and Canada.

Read his full remarks below:

“I just want to make a quick point on what is happening in the United States. Many Canadians of diverse backgrounds are watching like all Canadians are, the news out of the United States with shock and with horror. Anti-Black racism, racism is real. It’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada. And we know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias, and anti-Black racism every single day. 


“We need, as a society, to stand together. Stand up against discrimination. Be there for each other in respect. But also understand that we have work to do as well in Canada in our systems that we need to work forward on.


“And I call on all Canadians, whether it’s anti-Black racism or anti-Asian racism or racism discrimination of any type, to stand together in solidarity, to be there for each other and know just how deeply people are being affected by what we see on the news these past few days.”

It’s a rare move for Trudeau to weigh in on American news, particularly domestic U.S. affairs.

The prime minister has had to confront his own racism during last year’s election campaign after Time Magazine published a photo of him wearing brownface makeup from 2001. 

He called the photo a “dumb” racist mistake, and also confessed he wore “makeup” to sing “Day-O” during a high school show. A video also surfaced of him wearing black makeup in the early 1990s. 

He dodged a reporter’s question the following day after being pressed for the number of times he’s worn racist make up in his life. Trudeau responded at the time saying he couldn’t give a “definitive” number. 

Trump flagged for ‘glorifying violence’

U.S. President Donald Trump incited anger with a tweet Friday, calling people protesting Floyd’s death “THUGS.” His remark claiming “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” crossed a line with Twitter. 

The social media platform added a label to his tweet, explaining it had violated the rules about “glorifying violence.” 

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences last year, Black men and boys are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men and boys.

In the Floyd video, the 46-year-old is heard repeatedly pleading with the officer that he can’t breathe. 

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Citizens visit Mauer Park in Berlin on May 29, 2020 to check out a mural of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn. on Monday night.

Eric Garner’s mother told CNN that hearing those words felt like déjà vu. Her son repeated the same words before he died in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer in 2014.

The footage showed Floyd stopped speaking after a few minutes of the officer’s knee on his neck. Onlookers demanded the officer back off. 

A news release from the Minneapolis Police Department Tuesday said officers had received a report of a “forgery in process” and a suspect appeared to be “under the influence.”

When two officers arrived, the police reported the subject was ordered to step out of his car then “physically resisted officers.” The report said the suspect was handcuffed and “appeared to be suffering medical distress.” 

An ambulance was called and the suspect died in hospital, the release read. Despite bystander video, there is no mention of an officer putting a knee to the suspect’s neck. The officer, along with three of his colleagues with him at the time of the incident, were fired.

The former police officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, was taken into custody Friday by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.