George Floyd’s Last Words Soar Over Detroit: “Please I Can’t Breathe”

The protest artwork was created by Jammie Holmes, a self-taught African-American painter from Louisiana. The messages quoting George Floyd’s last words flew over several American cities on Saturday where protests were scheduled or currently underway.

Courtesy of Jammie Holmes
Courtesy of Jammie Holmes

On Saturday, artist Jammie Holmes unveiled a piece of protest art that literally soared above five American cities where protests against police brutality were being staged.

Between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., an airplane flying a banner that read “Please I Can’t Breathe” flew over downtown Detroit.

The statement is among the last words of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25th. A video of his arrest has sparked protests in Detroit and around the country.

“I hope that people across the United States will use the outlets available to them to continue to demand change.” — Jammie Holmes, artist

The juxtaposition of Floyd’s last words against blue skies, white clouds and framed by city skylines creates a striking composition that Holmes hopes rises above “the noise of digital media.”

Holmes is a self-taught painter from Louisiana who is represented by Library Street Collective, a contemporary art gallery based in Detroit.

Holmes says he wanted to highlight the “inhumane treatment of American citizens” while supporting national protests that highlight police brutality in African-American communities.

“Like countless silenced and fearful young black men, I have been the victim of police misconduct on a number of occasions in my life,” Holmes said in a statement on his website. “At some point, they will realize they can’t kill us all.”

Between 11:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., Holmes’ protest artwork also flew Floyd’s last words over Miami (“My Stomach Hurts”), Dallas (“My Neck Hurts”), Los Angeles (“Everything Hurts”) and New York (“They’re Going To Kill Me”).

You can see more of the protest artwork created by Jammie Holmes via his official website.

Hayden Stinebaugh
Photo by Hayden Stinebaugh

Photo by Sue Kwon
Photo by Sue Kwon

Author

  • Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.