Spike Lee sees the parallels between George Floyd and ‘Do the Right Thing’


Spike Lee made a powerful statement Sunday about the killing of George Floyd by revisiting his seminal 1989 film, “Do the Right Thing.”

“3 Brothers,” a new short film from the director, connects the killing of Radio Raheem in “Do the Right Thing” to videos of police killing George Floyd and Eric Garner. “Will history stop repeating itself?” a title card reads ahead of the clips of Floyd in 2020, Garner in 2014 and Radio Raheem, a fictional character whom police choke to death in “Do the Right Thing.”

As authorities force Garner into a chokehold and tackle him to the ground, a match cut shows Radio Raheem getting tackled outside Sal’s pizzeria — the epicenter of conflict in “Do the Right Thing.” The minute-and-a-half edit rotates between strikingly similar footage of cops suffocating and strangling Radio Raheem, Garner and Floyd as both real-life victims plead, “I can’t breathe.”

“How can people not understand why people are reacting the way they are?” Lee said while introducing the short film to Don Lemon on CNN. “This is history again and again and again. This is not new. We saw it with the riots in the ’60s, with the assassination of Dr. King. ... People are reacting the way they feel they have to, to be heard. What we’re seeing today is not new.”


Garner was killed in 2014 after white NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in a chokehold and ignored him as he repeatedly told officers he could not breathe. Pantaleo was not charged with murder.

Floyd also told police he could not breathe last month as white Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground by the neck for several minutes. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder as protests demanding more justice for Floyd, Garner and other black victims of police brutality continue across the country.

Last week, Lee shared an illustration by artist Phresh Laundry of Floyd wearing Radio Raheem’s signature love-hate knuckle rings from “Do the Right Thing.”

“People are fed up, and people are tired of the debasing, the killing of black bodies,” Lee said Sunday on CNN. “And now we have cameras. But the attack on black bodies has been here from the get-go.”

Lee is one of several entertainers speaking up in the wake of Floyd’s killing. Other celebrities using their platforms to denounce racism and police brutality include Trevor Noah, Beyoncé, Jane Fonda, Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Ava DuVernay, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, John Boyega, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and many more.

Trevor Noah, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Jane Fonda are among the latest celebrities to condemn George Floyd’s killing as protests ripple across the country.

June 1, 2020