By Krisiti Belcamino, Pioneer Press
Three days of events culminating with Tuesday’s anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd began Sunday with a march and rally attended by hundreds in downtown Minneapolis.
The George Floyd Memorial Foundation, an organization formed by Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd to seek police reform, said it will hold rallies in front of the Hennepin County Government Center for three days.
Bridgett Floyd spoke at Sunday’s rally.
“We are a god-fearing family,” she began. “Tuesday will be a year. It has been a long year. It has been a painful year. It has been very frustrating for me and my family … for your life to change within the blink of an eye. I still don’t know why.”
George Floyd, 46, died May 25, 2020, after being pinned beneath the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd in April, and three other former officers involved in the arrest are scheduled to go on trial in March.
Her brother was not ashamed to share his faith, Bridgett Floyd said, and he tried to get others to “join him in serving God. A lot of folks didn’t know that. That officer didn’t know what he took from us last year,” she said. “I will stand and be the voice for him. I will stand and be the change for him. I will stand and continue to be the legacy for him.”
Bridgett Floyd said she started the foundation “to make sure I am doing the things my brother can no longer do — that he wanted to do while he was here.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton introduced Bridgett Floyd, saying the foundation was founded to seek justice for others and that the Floyd family never once advocated any type of violence or destructive rioting but held their heads high despite their loss.
Sharpton said that the next step was getting federal legislation passed. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which would curb qualified immunity, a legal provision that shields police from accountability for misconduct, and impose a ban on chokeholds at the federal level, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in March but has not advanced in the Senate.
“These families here, they want to see a law, but don’t mistake this — this law will not fill the pain in their heart,” he said.
Sharpton called George Floyd’s killing “one of the greatest disgraces in American history.”
“That is why people all over the country, all over the world, stood up and said enough is enough,” he said. “They thought they could get away with it, and you went to the streets: black and white, young and old in the middle of a pandemic … people marched all over this country risking their health. We came out of the house by the hundreds of thousands to say if you kept your knee on a man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, we are going to come out and show that enough is enough.”
Warren Terry, a student at Texas A&M University-Commerce, has been in Minneapolis for a few months as an intern with the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’s “Be his Legacy” internship program. Terry said he’s seen progress over the past year.
“I’ve seen more unity,” he said. “I’ve seen more compassion for our fellow man. When you see someone standing on a man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds and hear him cry out for his mama, it was an awakening. It awakened something in the nation. The entire world was protesting. George Floyd acted as a catalyst. The world said enough is enough.”
Terry said that change may not come as quickly as people would hope and that it will be a learning process because not everybody learns at the same pace. “It may not pay off at first, but it will in the long run.”
Darrell Askew, 17, echoed that message, saying that progress needs to be slow but steady.
“Nothing is going to happen overnight,” he said. “I just hope it changes in my lifetime.”
Voting at the local level will help effect change, he said.
Askew said he has always felt the danger inherent in being a person of color. Now, a year after George Floyd’s killing, that is starting to change.
“People knew (this was happening), but we weren’t able to do anything about it,” he said.
He instinctively adjusts his clothing when he enters a store. At times, his heart has skipped a beat when he has encountered law enforcement. He lives a life where he worries that when he reaches inside his coat for a phone, a police officer might think he is reaching for a weapon.
“We want to feel safe, too,” he said. “I don’t want to be afraid somebody is going to shoot me if I reach for my inhaler and they think I’m going for a gun. I don’t wear a hoodie in certain places. I know to take my hoodie down when I walk into a store. It’s just second nature.”
More than anything, Askew wants people to know that people need to stand together. “We’re stronger together.”
Tay Elhindi, president of the Visual Black Justice organization, said that there has been progress in the year since Floyd’s killing.
“People are more aware of the issues around policing. I’ve seen the changes in the community. People are doing the research. They are slowing down and learning what is going on in the world outside of their own bubble,” she said.
But the real change is foundational, she said. That means passing the federal legislation and making sure people of color are represented in every field, especially in education, she said.
There is more work to be done.
Chauvin’s conviction is not enough, Sharpton said. Seeing a white police officer convicted for the first time was not something to brag about, he said.
“It’s something shameful. It shouldn’t take until 2021 to see a man like Chauvin get convicted,” he said. “We are going to see more acquittals unless we see federal laws. George Floyd should not go down as someone with a knee on his neck. He should go down as someone who broke the neck of police racism and police brutality. That is how we will put George’s name in history. He’s not going to go down in history as a martyr. He’s going as a game-changer.”
This article originally appeared Pioneer Press.