A flier insinuating that George Floyd’s death was because of drugs appeared on a Black History Month display at Duke University, causing a school-wide investigation into what officials are calling an “act of bias.”
The flier, an apparent printout of George Floyd’s toxicology report, appeared Saturday, Duke University confirmed, on a Black History Month display honoring Black victims of police violence. The report included handwritten remarks in a pink pen, reading: “Mix of drugs presents in difficulty breathing! Overdose? Good Man? Use of fake currency is a felony!”
At the time of his death, police had been called on Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit bill at a store in Minneapolis. His death in May 2020, after police officers knelt on his neck for eight minutes, caused massive anti-racism protests across the country. An independent autopsy at the time found that Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” from the officers kneeling on his neck and back.
Matt Mohn, a first-year student at Duke, told CNN he found the flier on Saturday around noon. After he alerted his resident adviser, he said the flier was taken down 30 minutes later. He called the act “audacious.”
“All of a sudden, someone comes up and is essentially sticking a thumb in the face of every Black person, saying his life didn’t matter, that he wasn’t a good person, because of one $20 bill,” Mohn said. “I was just really really surprised by it, that someone would put that much effort into trying to strip someone of their humanity for no reason.”
Michael Manns is a first-year student who lives on the third floor of Brown, down the hall from where the flier was found. Though it was taken down before he saw it in person, Manns saw a photo of the flier.
“I was honestly terrified; I remember shaking in that moment,” Manns, who is Black, told CNN. “That happened right down the hall from where I sleep, from where I’m supposed to be safe.”
Whoever this person is, Manns said, they think Floyd deserved to die because he committed a felony, or that he was responsible for his own death. And they may think that others who look like Floyd, like Manns, deserve that, too.
“The thought that it could be someone I’ve lived with all these months really terrified me,” he said.
In a letter to the student body on Tuesday, school officials wrote that university police, along with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and the Office for Institutional Equity, are investigating the incident.
“If Duke students are found to be responsible for this act, the Office of Conduct and Community Standards (OSCCS) will issue sanctions to the responsible student(s),” John Blackshear, the dean of students, and Jeanna McCullers, the senior associate dean, wrote in the letter.
It continued: “This communication follows the recommendation of the Summer 2020 Hate and Bias Working Group to provide more transparency to the student community in cases of anonymous acts of bias.”
The school’s investigation does give Manns some feelings of safety, he said. But he noted that racism at Duke University is “not something new.”
In 2015, a student at the school hung a noose from a tree near the student union, causing anti-racism marches on campus. In 2019, one Duke professor warned Chinese students against speaking in their native language, sparking outrage both on campus and across social media.
“They like to push this notion that at Duke, there’s a bubble and racism can’t get in,” Manns said. “The reality is, it does happen and racism is allowed to grow here.”