Photo by the author.
May 25, 2021
Today marks one year since George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. In a video that has spread around the world, Chauvin is kneeling on Floyd’s neck, which he did for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Despite Floyd’s cry for help (“I can’t breathe,” he says numerous times), Chauvin refuses to relent. It’s not until Floyd lies lifeless on the ground.
Floyd’s excruciating death was recorded via cell phone by teenager Darnella Frazier. That video — and Chauvin’s deliberate cruelty — caused widespread opprobrium and protests in Minneapolis, in Houston, in Boston. In Paris. In London. In Berlin. In New Zealand (!!!). The worldwide outrage helped power this country to a statistically rare murder conviction for a police officer. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder and third-degree murder on April 20, 2021.
Today, one year later, ceremonies were held in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, and in his hometown of Houston. According to CBS’ Houston affiliate KHOU, a brand new park in Third Ward was renamed in George Floyd’s honor. It’s across the street from Jack Yates High School, where Floyd excelled in both basketball and football before graduating in 1993.
But that wasn’t the only local ceremony honoring George Floyd. This evening, a balloon release was held in Cuney Homes, the Third Ward neighborhood where Floyd grew up. Holding red and gold balloons, a crowd gathered to remember George Floyd today in the housing projects where he spent most of his early life.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Just after 4 p.m., an assortment of community leaders and Floyd’s loved ones gathered at Cuney Homes’ community center for the ribbon-cutting of a computer lab in Floyd’s name. Rapper Trae tha Truth, who attended the Chauvin trial, helped put together the project, and spoke of his friendship with Floyd.”
Around 5:20 p.m., Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee assumed the podium, Floyd’s sisters and nieces gathered behind her. She told everyone to imagine what happened on this day in 2020. Imagine the girl who stood there courageously with her phone, she said. Imagine the firefighter who tried to render aid. Imagine the martial arts expert who understood what the officers actions were doing to Floyd’s body.
Despite all of that, the family of George Floyd has risen above the urge to be angry or bitter, but instead advocated for justice. “This family has not been able to grieve because America has called on them to be America’s family,” Lee said. “We owe them not because of who they are, but what they have given to us for a whole year […] But out of that and what they have experienced, America’s family never turned to anger and hatred and contempt,” she said of Floyd’s survivors.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, “Jackson Lee also drew attention to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is up for consideration in Congress. Among its provisions, the bill seeks to improve police training and outlaw some law enforcement techniques, including chokeholds. It would also end “qualified immunity,” which protects law enforcement officers from most civil lawsuits.”
Jackson Lee said the bill “needs to be passed as is” and encouraged attendees to write their representatives to express their support. the bill was also the subject of talks in the nation’s capital. Today, members of George Floyd’s family visited President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. NPR reports that the meeting with Biden and Harris lasted approximately an hour, and was kept private. The White House said those attending included Floyd’s mother and daughter, three brothers and a nephew.
Rodney Floyd, one of Floyd’s brothers, told reporters after their meeting that Biden and Harris “showed great concern” for them, asking after their emotional state and self-care. Biden told reporters that the meeting went “incredibly well.”
“On every anniversary you’re happy people remember, but it also brings everything back immediately like it happened that day. It takes a lot of courage to go through it,” Biden said of the Floyd family.
Tonight, in Minneapolis, people have returned to the scene of the crime. Hundreds of people have gathered at Cup Foods, at 38th and Chicago Avenue, to commemorate the occasion. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a daylong event featured free food and musical performances. “The square was transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival, with food, children’s activities and music. At times, people danced in the street. Artwork and signs from protests after Floyd’s death also were on display. One group hosted an open mic next to a greenhouse that community members constructed earlier this year to house flowers left by mourners. Nearby, a brass band played for passers-by.”
But there was also fear and panic: “Hours before the Minneapolis festivities, the intersection was disrupted by gunfire a block away. Associated Press video from 38th and Chicago showed people running for cover as shots rang out. Police said a man, who they believe was injured in the shooting, went to a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound. Police said he was in critical condition but was expected to survive. There were no immediate arrests.”