One of the more disturbing trends being talked about on social media is the so-called “George Floyd Challenge.” The challenge shows white teens and young adults re-enacting George Floyd’s death by imitating how he died, taking photos, and then sharing them on social media. Several people have already been arrested in the UK in connection with the challenge, and employees working for a construction company in Minnesota were fired after photos emerged showing them participating in the challenge.
Note: Examples of the George Floyd ‘Challenge’ photos are in this story below, with the faces blurred out. Please note that these photos are disturbing.
Three Teens Were Arrested for a Possible Hate Crime After Posting a Photo Imitating Floyd’s Death
Although it’s not known just how many people are participating in the challenge, it’s clear that some have. Northumbria Police in the UK are investigating a photo taken by two 19-year-old men and one 18-year-old in Gateshead, Chronicle Live reported. (The photo above is an example from the challenge, but it’s not known where this was taken.)
Northumbria Police told Chronicle Live: “An investigation was launched and yesterday (Sunday) officers arrested two males aged 19 and another male aged 18 on suspicion of sending communications causing anxiety and distress. They have since been released on bail. We understand that this social media post has caused significant upset and we want to reassure the public it is being investigated robustly and is being treated as a hate crime.”
The police confirmed that the men were imitating George Floyd’s death in the photo. They did not say if anything was mentioned about a George Floyd “Challenge” in the post.
The Daily Mail reported that the original image was shared in a Snapchat video and the teens later shut down their social media profiles. The video had been shared on a Warwick University Facebook page. One person who knows the teens told the Daily Mail: “It’s all blown up in their faces and they’ve received death threats.”
King’s College Student Claims Photo Posted on His Account Was ‘Hacked’
A Master’s student of King’s College of London told The King’s Tab that his Instagram account posted a now-viral George Floyd Challenge photo after it was hacked. King’s Tab said the image was already circulating before it was posted on his account.
The unnamed student said: “My Instagram account has been hacked multiple times. The image wasn’t posted by me and I deleted it as soon as I saw it… I have proof of texts from friends who called me and texted me saying they got weird messages from my account.”
Other students asked King’s London to investigate the post after it was shared on his Instagram story. In response to tweets about the post, King’s College replied on Twitter.
The college wrote: “Thank you for raising this with us. We do not tolerate racism or any form of prejudice or discrimination levelled at anyone based on their skin colour, ethnicity or religion. Such behaviour is subject to our misconduct processes. We are looking into this serious matter.”
Minnesota Construction Firm Fires Workers Who Took Part in George Floyd Challenge
Shade Tree Construction, a business in East Bethel, Minnesota, has fired workers who posted a photo that re-enacted George Floyd’s death. One of the people in the photo was the owner’s son. If you visit the firm’s website, a pop-up will appear showing an apology from the firm.
The same message is pinned on the business’s Facebook page. Mark Strandlund, the business owner, wrote:
As a father and business owner I would like to personally apologize for the recent events surrounding the photo that was taken by my employees, one of which was my son. It was truly insensitive and offensive, not just to the family of George Floyd, but all people. This behavior is not condoned by me, my family, or my company. I know that words only go so far, but please be assured that this is not being taken lightly. It is being dealt with on a personal and professional level to ensure moving forward it will not be repeated, and lessons will be learned from this experience…. For clarification on the statement above: The employees involved in this incident have been terminated from our company, as their actions do not align with our values.”
Housing First Minnesota dropped Shade Tree as a member after seeing the photo, Bring Me the News reported. Two of the employees in the photo were seniors at Legacy Christian Academy, according to the school’s post.
Another Shade Tree Construction located in North Carolina has a banner at the top of their website noting that they are not connected with the Shade Tree whose employees posted the photo. They posted the same on Facebook to clear up misinformation.
26-Year-Old in Fife, Scotland Arrested for George Floyd Photo
A 26-year-old in Fife was arrested after taking a photo that mocked Floyd’s death, The Scottish Sun reported. The photo was originally from Snapchat and was later deleted. A spokesperson for the police said: “Officers in Fife have arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with an image relating to the death in the United States of George Floyd which has been circulating on social media. Enquiries into the incident, which was reported to Police Scotland on Tuesday June 2, 2020, are ongoing.”
The Courier reported that the photo showed one man lying on the ground while another had his knee on the man’s neck and was flexing his arms. The photo was captioned: “George Floyd Challenge.”
High School Seniors in Missouri Lost Their College Admission for Participating
Two high school seniors in Missouri found their admission to universities rescinded after they uploaded a Snapchat video mocking Floyd’s death, Daily Mail reported. MSU President Clif Smart clarified that the students involved there had “chosen to withdraw.”
I was horrified by offensive social media posts made by two incoming students recently.
These students have chosen to withdraw from the university. Read my analysis of the situation. https://t.co/s4R3cGIiAl
— Clif Smart (@ClifSmart) June 2, 2020
One student posted a disturbing video to My Story on Snapchat. A person in the My Story group re-posted it on Twitter. Perhaps the intent of the video can be debated. Its impact cannot. Another student used an offensive racial slur while engaging in a social media exchange with a black student from her high school…. After seeing these social media posts and viewing the video, I, too, was horrified. My first impulse was to rescind the offer of admission to these students. But then I was reminded of a couple of things. Missouri State University is a public university with a public affairs mission. As a public university we are legally required to uphold the principles of free speech…
…As a university, we are not going to police everyone’s social media accounts. We legally cannot and, in my opinion, should not bar a student from entry for offensive comments posted as an adolescent. I believe in grace, redemption and the probability that a college education can change people for the better. It did me.
That being said, we will continue to educate our students on the three pillars of our public affairs mission. And given the current environment, we will continue to give special emphasis to the awareness, knowledge and skills required to be culturally competent in a global society and world…”
Chardon, Ohio Is Investigating a Photo Labeled As Being Taken in the City
Another photo circulating was labeled as being taken in Chardon, Ohio. It’s not known if the location was accurate. The Chardon Schools Superintendent shared a post on Instagram and Twitter, which you can read below, sharing that the photo is offensive and after researching the photo, they have not found any connection to Chardon Schools or students.
from Chardon Police in response to our Facebook post from Superintendent Hanlon: pic.twitter.com/X6oz2EJ87j
— Chardon Schools (@ChardonSchools) June 1, 2020
The Chardon Police said the photo had no connection to Chardon, Ohio and was being shared to “incite disruption.”
Some social media sites are reportedly cracking down on posts participating in the challenge. If you search for #GeorgeFloydChallenge on Facebook, you might not see any posts, New York Post reported. But when Heavy performed the search, the posts showed up. The New York Post also shared that you would get a “message is hidden” response if searching on Instagram for the hashtag. Heavy noted that searching for the hashtag revealed no results on Instagram, but did bring a suggestion for #GeorgeFloydChallengeEndsNow.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Post that they were removing posts that violate their community standards.
Searches on Twitter still reveal the challenge, but most are posts by people wanting to identify and shame the people involved.