A year after George Floyd's murder: What now, and what next?

In Minneapolis and other cities, people are gathering to commemorate one year since George Floyd’s death. “True justice for George Floyd will come only through real, systemic change to prevent acts like this from happening again,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. 

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP
Artist Dennis Owes gives the final touch to his portrait of George Floyd during a rally on May 23, 2021, in Brooklyn, New York. Today marks one year since George Floyd was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin.

The intersection where George Floyd took his final breaths is to be transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival on the anniversary of his death, with food, children’s activities, and a long list of musical performers.

“We’re going to be turning mourning into dancing,” rapper Nur-D tweeted. “We’re going to be celebrating 365 days of strength in the face of injustice.”

Mr. Floyd, who was Black, died on Memorial Day 2020 after then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Mr. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.

The site of Mr. Floyd’s death, 38th and Chicago, was taken over by activists soon after and remains barricaded to traffic. The “Rise and Remember George Floyd” celebration, including a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m., caps several days of marches, rallies, and panel discussions about his death and where America is in confronting racial discrimination.

Family members of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Daunte Wright, and other Black men slain by police gathered for a discussion about the state of policing in the U.S. and racial inequities in the frequency of fatal encounters with law enforcement. The families also discussed the role of lawmakers in making changes to hold police accountable and how community members can support the loved ones of those killed by police.

“You don’t have to actually lose a child in order for you to have that passion,” said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. “We need allies, we need people to support us and lift us up when we’ve fallen down and when you all have fallen down we need to lift you all up.”

Many members of the Floyd family are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, in a private meeting with President Joe Biden, who called family members after the Chauvin verdict and pledged to continue fighting for racial justice.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said he hoped Mr. Biden will renew his support for policing reform named for George Floyd that would ban chokeholds and no-knock police raids and create a national registry for officers disciplined for serious misconduct.

“Now is time to act,” Mr. Crump said Tuesday on CNN. “Not just talk but act.”

Mr. Floyd’s brother Philonise, appearing alongside Mr. Crump, said he thinks about George “all the time.”

“My sister called me at 12 o’clock last night and said ‘This is the day our brother left us,’” he said, adding: “I think things have changed. I think it is moving slowly but we are making progress.”

Nur-D, whose real name is Matt Allen, took to the Minneapolis streets in the days after Mr. Floyd’s death, often providing medical assistance to protesters who were shot or gassed in confrontations with police. He eventually founded an organization, Justice Frontline Aid, to support safe protest.

He described the past year as “like we’ve lived 20 years inside of one” and hoped that people would feel “honesty and a real sense of togetherness” during Tuesday’s celebration at what’s informally known as George Floyd Square.

“If you’re angry, you can be angry. If you’re sad, you can be sad,” Nur-D said in a follow-up interview. “If you’re feeling some sense of joy over the verdict and some sort of like step in the right direction, and you want to celebrate that, do that as well.”

The event was organized by the George Floyd Global Memorial. Angela Harrelson, an aunt of Mr. Floyd’s and a member of the board of directors, said the organization has stockpiled 3,000 items surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death – things like artwork left behind in the square – and will display some of them in a pop-up gallery.

The event was due to start at 1 p.m., the same time Gov. Tim Walz asked Minnesotans to pause for a moment of silence to honor Mr. Floyd. Mr. Walz asked that the moment last for 9 minutes, 29 seconds – the length of time that prosecutors say Mr. Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

Mr. Walz’s proclamation says Mr. Chauvin’s guilty verdict was a step in the right direction, “but our work to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination has not ended. True justice for George Floyd will come only through real, systemic change to prevent acts like this from happening again – when every member of every community, no matter their race, is safe, valued, and protected.”

The state’s seemingly polite exterior, exemplified by the nickname “Minnesota Nice,” has long concealed some of the country’s worst racial disparities – especially when it comes to employment, housing and education. 

Samuel Myers Jr., director of the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the University of Minnesota, has spent years documenting what he calls “The Minnesota Paradox.”

•The graduation rate for high school students hit a historic high of nearly 84% in 2019. But for Black students, it was below 70%. And while two-thirds of white students met state reading proficiency standards, only a third of Black students did.

•Minnesota had the highest rate of home ownership in the nation at nearly 73% according to a 2013 report. For U.S.-born Black Minnesota residents, it was just 26%.

•The median household income for Minnesota in 2019 was $77,000 for white households and about $42,000 for Black households.

Residents are still debating whether anything has changed – or will.

“Change will come out of this,” said Walt Jacobs, who chaired the African American & African Studies department at the University of Minnesota before becoming the social sciences dean at San Jose State University. He edited a collection of essays on racial dynamics after Mr. Floyd’s death that was published this month. “The question is how much change? What will the extent of the change be?”

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

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