Martin Luther King III reflects on father's legacy amid George Floyd protests

He told Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist that if Martin Luther King Jr. had lived longer, "we wouldn't be dealing with these issues."

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/ Source: TODAY
By Maura Hohman

Amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, Martin Luther King III, son of the famed civil rights activist, is speaking out about what his father would make of today's racial tensions.

Joining Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist, King explained that he believes his father living past 1968, when he was shot and killed at a sanitation workers' strike, would've drastically changed the criminal justice system.

"My father, I believe, and none of us can speak for him, but certainly through his words, he always had compassion, and so compassion would certainly be in order," he began. "But ... I just believe that had my father lived, we wouldn't be even dealing with these issues. We would've resolved them by now."

King continued: "We would have a criminal system that is just ... How does 13 percent of the population comprise 60 percent of the jails? That is the first problem. The whole criminal system is not just ... It works if you have money, perhaps, but if you do not have money, and there are many people who do not, the criminal system does not work."

"It is just for some, but it is not just for everyone," he added.

The international human rights activist also offered his opinion on the peaceful protests, some of which have turned violent, happening across the country.

"We're seeing and feeling the frustration, the humiliation, the insensitivity," King explained. "Fifty years years later, people are asking just for dignity and respect in terms of arresting a human being ... We see a variety of people (protesting) ... It's not just black people. It's black and white, it's old and young."

Reflecting on the response of Minneapolis officials to the video of George Floyd's death, King said, "All of the world witnessed a man being killed. We all know this, in front of our eyes, and yet it took three or four days for an initial action ... Everyone there was complicit.

After explaining that people want "immediate" responses to such incidents, he continued: "Why does the system take so long to work? And why is it not working for communities of color, and specifically African Americans? How does it always end up in a fatality? That is unacceptable. We are acting inhumane."

King went on to address the destruction and looting that's happened in some major cities.

"Yes, people's actions are not the approach that I would want us to take," he said. "Burning down our nation is not the right answer. But when you destroy a building, and that is so tragic and should not happen, yes, a building can be ... rebuilt. But how do you rebuild a human life when a life is gone? You can't."

A May 25 cell phone video shows an officer from the Minneapolis Police Department, Derek Chauvin, placing his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes. It also captured Floyd's cries of physical pain, which led to protests in Minnesota's largest city on Wednesday night. Cities across the country, from Chicago to Atlanta, Los Angeles to New York City, have since followed suite.

Four police officers involved in Floyd's detainment and death were fired Tuesday. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. State charging documents said the officer’s actions were “inherently dangerous," NBC News reported.

King will be continuing the conversation during a Zoom conference open to the nation from 7:30 to 8 p.m. EST Sunday. He will share details on his Twitter account later in the day on Sunday.