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Vigils and Demonstrations For George Floyd On 1-Year Anniversary Of His Murder By Police
Across the nation, cities held tributes and vigils for George Floyd, who was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer a year ago today.
As vigils and demonstrations were held nationwide on Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, his family announced a fund to help the community where he was killed.
The George Floyd Community Benevolence Fund, announced on Tuesday, will pull from the $27 million settlement that the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay the family in March. The $500,000 fund will award grants to businesses and community organizations that benefit the 38th & Chicago neighborhood, which became the epicenter of the movement Floyd's killing ignited. Grants for businesses and organizations will be funded at $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000.
“The George Floyd Community Benevolence Fund will be an instrumental, long-term partner to the Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood where he died, where we all have seen the continued negative impact of systemic racism,” said civil rights lawyer Ben Crump who is representing Floyd’s family.
Floyd’s family spent part of Tuesday in a closed-door Oval Office meeting with President Joe Biden. In April, Biden encouraged lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban the use of chokeholds, impose restrictions on deadly force and make it easier to prosecute police officers.
Also on Tuesday, in Minnesota, state attorney general Keith Ellison spoke of the widespread outcry after the brutal killing of Floyd by the former police officer and convicted murderer Derek Chauvin, who is facing decades in prison after his April murder conviction. Ellison commended the crowd who watched in shock and horror as Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine-and-a-half “excruciating minutes.”
“African-American communities have been gaslit by people in authority for 100 years: they have been repeatedly told that state-sanctioned violence in their communities is their fault and that they are the criminals, not the ones committing the crimes against them,” Ellison said. “But this time, the witnesses to George Floyd’s death and everyone in the world who watched their videos refused to be gaslit. They believed their eyes.”
As that video spread online and on television in the days after his death, the Black Lives Matter movement was again reignited. The outrage over police killings had not let up in the past year, and the protests seen over the summer, which were largely peaceful but at times led to physical confrontations and police violence with demonstrators, were echoed on Tuesday in New York.
In lower Manhattan protesters blocked the entrance to the Holland Tunnel and were told to disperse by police. A recording can be heard on a video posted to Twitter saying, "This is the New York City Police Department, you are unlawfully in the roadway and obstructing vehicular traffic. You are ordered to leave the roadway and utilize the available sidewalk."
Among those seen being hauled into a police van along with Black Lives Matter protesters on Tuesday was New York mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan. He was arrested and released shortly afterward, along with social justice activist Rev. Kevin McCall, Patch reported.
Uptown, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem to mark the anniversary of Floyd’s death by kneeling in silence for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.
The protests and memorials happened nationwide. The N.A.A.C.P. held a virtual moment of silence at 9:29 a.m. In Philadelphia, a citywide prayer was scheduled to be held at 9:25 p.m., marking the time that Floyd died. The People’s Church of Chicago was set to hold a vigil, while a rally was scheduled in the downtown Federal Plaza. Other vigils were planned in Seattle, Dallas, Louisville and Birmingham, Alabama, among other cities across the nation.
In Los Angeles, hundreds gathered at the LAPD’s headquarters to honor Floyd’s life and reflect on the hundreds of Black Americans killed by police every year.
“We have 700 names, and we’re still counting,” Black Lives Matter Los Angeles leader Paula Minor said as she poured water onto leafy branches as she read the names: John Horton, Matthew Blaylock, Wakiesha Wilson, and so many more, as the LA Times reported. “We pour libations in the hope of having some spiritual umbrella over our work. It’s honoring those people whose lives have been stolen."
A year after Floyd’s death, the ongoing movement for black lives and fight against police killings conducted with impunity seems to have made significant strides. An Associated Press/NORC poll that concluded earlier this month found that 45 percent of Americans view police violence against the public as a serious problem — up 13 points from July 2015, a year after the police killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson ignited the movement. The poll found that 95 percent of Americans believe the criminal justice system needs to be changed, and 68 percent say it needs an overhaul.
Despite these shifts, along with the huge national attention on Chauvin’s trial and his eventual triple conviction, major legal changes in the movement for Black lives remains languorous. Lawmakers have failed to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which has reached a stalemate over contentious elements like qualified immunity, which protects police in brutality cases. A swift movement to dismantle the plagued Minneapolis Police Department by the city council after Floyd’s murder failed in the fall amid pitfalls in the language of the city’s charter. And news of New York’s move to cut the NYPD’s budget by about $500 million was followed by news of a potential increase.
There have been some bright spots for the BLM and police reform movement, however: Over 20 of the nation’s largest cities voted for police budget reduction, San Francisco said it would reallocate $120 million of police funds over the next two years, and the city of Austin said it would remove one-third from the Austin Police Department’ budget in 2021.
Terrence Floyd, who will serve on the board of his brother’s namesake Community Benevolence Fund, said ahead of Tuesday’s events that he wants his brother’s life, and the righteous outrage his death ignited across the nation, to now bring hope and concrete changes for Black communities.
“George’s legacy is his spirit of optimism that things can get better, and our family wants to bring that hope to the community where he died,” he said. “So that together we can make things better for the Black community in Minneapolis and beyond.