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Hundreds rally in Minneapolis to remember George Floyd, push for reforms

By the Associated Press and Minnesota Public Radio News

Members of George Floyd’s family, and others who lost loved ones to police encounters, joined activists and residents in Minneapolis on Sunday for a rally that was one of several events planned nationwide to mark the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder.

Hundreds of people gathered for the rally in front of the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis where the Derek Chauvin trial concluded a month ago, many carrying signs with pictures of Floyd, Philando Castile and other Black men and women killed by police.

Amid chants of “No justice, no peace!” and “Say his name,” Gov. Tim Walz, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter watched alongside a dozen of Floyd’s family members as speakers called for justice for families of Black people slain by police.

“It has been a long year. It has been a painful year,” Floyd’s sister Bridgett told the crowd on Sunday. “It has been very frustrating for me and my family for our lives to change in the blink of an eye — I still don’t know why.”

Tuesday will mark one year since Floyd, who was Black, died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded for air. Chauvin, who is white, has since been convicted of murder and manslaughter for Floyd’s death, which sparked worldwide protests and calls for change in policing in the U.S.

Speakers at the event included several local activists, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who called on the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The legislation, which would bring about the most significant changes to policing on the federal level, would ban the use of chokeholds and establish a national database of police misconduct.

“George Floyd is not going in history as a martyr,” Sharpton told the crowd. “He’s going in history as a game-changer. When you went down on his neck, you broke the neck of police misconduct in this country. …

“We want something coming out of Washington. We want something that will change federal law. There’s been an adjournment on justice for too long. It’s time for them to vote and make this the law.”

Among those in the crowd was Jael Were of Minneapolis. She said concerns about COVID-19 kept her from participating in-person at protests last year, but she felt compelled to attend Sunday’s rally.

“We lived and witnessed what happened,” she said. “It is important that as a community and as a nation that we ensure this does not happen again. I came here to witness this and to join hands with everybody else who’s coming to say that this should never happen again.”

After the rally ended, the crowd marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis.

The George Floyd Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit based in Fayetteville, N.C., where Floyd was born, is hosting a series of events in Minneapolis over the next few days to honor Floyd on the anniversary.

The nonprofit was launched by Floyd’s siblings in September 2020 to help combat racial inequities in Black and brown communities in their brother’s honor.

Other events in Minneapolis ahead of the anniversary include a virtual “day of action” that encourages people to organize remotely and two panels with the families and other activists on Monday, followed by a community festival and candlelight vigil on Tuesday.

In New York on Sunday, George Floyd’s brother, Terrence, attended a Brooklyn gathering in his brother’s memory organized by Sharpton, and told supporters not to forget his brother or victims of racist violence.

“If you keep my brother’s name ringing, you’re going to keep everybody else’s name ringing,” Terrence Floyd said. “Breonna Taylor, Sean Bell, Ahmaud Arbery, you could go through the whole list. There’s a lot of them.”

Foundation executive director Jacari Harris said the group has received donations from the Minneapolis Foundation, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation and athletic shoe and apparel retailer Finish Line, among others. Despite large grants from corporations and other organizations, Harris the average donation to the nonprofit was $47.

Harris said the group has also funded an initiative in Fayetteville to help reduce homelessness, a scholarship program for law school students and an internship program at Texas A&M University, where George Floyd went to school.