A family-friendly street festival, musical performances and a moment of silence were held Tuesday to honor George Floyd and mark the year since he died at the hands of Minneapolis police, a death captured on wrenching bystander video that galvanized the racial justice movement and continues to bring calls for change a year later.
Floyd’s sister Bridgett and other family members held a moment of silence at a “Celebration of Life” event at a downtown Minneapolis park that included music, food trucks, an inflatable bouncy house and a pop-up vaccination stand. A few miles away, at the site of the intersection where Floyd was pinned to the ground by police, dozens of people gathered around a steel fist sculpture and kneeled for several minutes.
“It’s been a troubling year, a long year,” Bridgett Floyd told the crowd in downtown Minneapolis. “But we made it. … The love is very outpouring today. The love is here. George is here.”
Other members of Floyd’s family met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, who urged Congress to quickly pass a law in Floyd’s name that would bring changes to policing.
A moment of silence to honor Floyd was also held in New York and a rally was held in Los Angeles.
In Raleigh, people from various faith communities gathered outside of Benson Memorial United Methodist Church to remember Floyd and other Black men and women who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
“We have a responsibility as a faith community and a community at-large to say something, and to not be quiet,” said Paul Williams, a member of the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Raleigh and an organizer of the event. “Silence is complicity.”
Globally, a rally took place in Germany and Floyd’s death was marked by U.S. embassies in Greece and Spain.
Floyd, 46, who was Black, died May 25, 2020, after then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.
Hours before the festivities began in Minneapolis, the intersection where Floyd died was disrupted by the sound of gunfire.
Associated Press video from 38th Street and Chicago Avenue – informally known as George Floyd Square – 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 spokesman John Elder said he was in critical condition but was expected to survive. No one was in custody by midday.
Like other major cities, Minneapolis has been struggling with rising gun violence, a problem made worse, in part, by many officers leaving the embattled force since Floyd’s death. A 6-year-old girl was fatally shot and two other children wounded in recent weeks. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey last week unveiled sweeping public safety proposals aimed at fixing the problem. Other groups are pursuing a more radical remaking of the police department.
The intersection of 38th and Chicagowas transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival, with food, children’s activities and a long list of musical performers. The “Rise and Remember George Floyd” celebration includes a candlelight vigil and caps several days of marches, rallies and panel discussions about his death and confronting racial discrimination.
Xavier Simmons, a 24-year-old organizer from Racine, Wisconsin, chanted “Say his name!” as the crowd kneeled before the fist sculpture. Simmons said he hopes people taking part in the festivities will both honor Floyd’s life and legacy and continue to “uplift and empower this movement.”
“We got the verdict that we needed, but it’s never going to change until we make a change,” he said.
Showing solidarity in Raleigh
Tuesday, about 25 people gathered on both sides of Creedmoor Road with signs reading “Justice now,” “Together we stand” and “Black Lives Matter.” They came from
Williams described the event as a “witness” and not a demonstration or rally, because he and others sought to show solidarity with the Black community.
“For a lot of us, that is one reason why we have the desire to be out here on the street today,” said Williams, who spoke to The News & Observer before the event. “To at least tell our community that we stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters, and remember that the struggle for human rights is not over in our country.”
Many cars honked in support as they drove by.
Monica Watson, a 55-year-old Durham resident, carried a sign with images of her son, Montez Hambric, on it. He was killed by Winston-Salem police on May 25, 2014. Watson said she was not a member of any of the participating congregations, but came to the event after learning about it on television.
“Him and George Floyd were killed on the same day,” she said.
Police were cleared after they said Hambric grabbed an officer’s baton and didn’t follow police commands, The Winston-Salem Journal reported then.
Watson said she believes reform is needed, pointing to Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed last month by law enforcement officers in Elizabeth City.
“They need to reform the police, and pay back all the mothers whose kids have been shot by them,” she said.
Diane Rees, 75, from Raleigh, said she came out in support of those in her church who wanted to acknowledge the anniversary of Floyd’s death. She carried a sign that read “George Floyd was my brother.”
Rees said she hopes the faith community can help with issues of race in America, but added she has learned that “the most segregated spot in the world is an hour on Sunday morning.”
“That’s a shame,” she said. “This country has a long way to go.”
Williams said he would like to see community and civic leaders “acknowledge that there is a problem.” He stressed that the past year has been a critical time of learning for those in his local faith community. Williams said many people from his church and from Benson Memorial UMC have been attending racial equity classes and “learning about the history of racism in our country.”
“As a white person, it is more than just picking up the sign and going out and marching down the street,” he said. “We really have to educate ourselves about what the problem has been, historically and currently.”
Floyd family meets Biden
In New York City, elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in kneeling for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
“As we took a knee, imagine how long that was on a human being’s neck,” Sharpton said. “Never switched knees, just dug in. It’s time we correct policing in this country.”
Several Floyd family members, including his young daughter Gianna, met with Biden and Harris on Tuesday. Biden had called family members after the Chauvin verdict and pledged to continue fighting for racial justice.
On Tuesday, he recalled how Gianna told him on the eve of Floyd’s funeral that “Daddy changed the world.” He said in a statement that Floyd did bring change, but that real change must include accountability and trust in the justice system. He said he hopes the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act can pass the Senate and get to his desk quickly.
“We have to act,” he said of the legislation that would ban chokeholds and no-knock police raids and create a national registry for officers disciplined for serious misconduct.
Harris also called on Congress to move “with a sense of urgency. Passing legislation will not bring back those lives lost, but it will represent much needed progress. We must address racial injustice wherever it exists. That is the work ahead.”
Bridgett Floyd told the crowd in Minneapolis: “We don’t want a watered down bill. My message to the president: Get your people in order … We’re going to continue to fight this good old fight.”
Also Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Kristen Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights, the first Black woman to hold the position. In the last few weeks, the Justice Department under Biden has announced sweeping investigations into the police in Minneapolis and Louisville and brought federal civil rights charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death, including Chauvin.
Separately, the Floyd family announced the launch of a fund that will make grants to businesses and community organizations in the neighborhood, as well as broader grants “encouraging the success and growth of Black citizens and community harmony.” The money comes from $500,000 earmarked as part of the city’s $27 million civil settlement for the Floyd family earlier this year.
Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.