George Floyd Memorial, South Minneapolis
A photo of the George Floyd Memorial in South Minneapolis, taken by Chad Davis

One year ago today, George Floyd was sense­less­ly mur­dered in Min­neapo­lis by indi­vid­u­als who had sworn an oath to serve and protect.

Today, peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions across the Unit­ed States and around the world are remem­ber­ing George Floyd and many oth­er Black peo­ple who have been wrong­ful­ly killed by law enforce­ment or while in police cus­tody, from Bre­on­na Tay­lor to Manuel Ellis to Eric Gar­ner and San­dra Bland.

George Floyd was mur­dered one year ago today,” said Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. “Since then, hun­dreds more Amer­i­cans have died in encoun­ters with police— par­ents, sons, daugh­ters, friends tak­en from us far too soon.”

“But the last year has also giv­en us rea­sons to hope. Today, more peo­ple in more places are see­ing the world more clear­ly than they did a year ago.”

“It’s a trib­ute to all those who decid­ed that this time would be different—and that they, in their own ways, would help make it different.”

When injus­tice runs deep, progress takes time,” Oba­ma con­clud­ed. “But if we can turn words into action and action into mean­ing­ful reform, we will, in the words of James Bald­win, ‘cease flee­ing from real­i­ty and begin to change it.’”

George Floyd Memorial, South Minneapolis
A pho­to of the George Floyd Memo­r­i­al in South Min­neapo­lis, tak­en by Chad Davis

“Today, the Pres­i­dent and I met with the fam­i­ly of Mr. George Floyd,” said Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris, the first Black woman to serve as Vice Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. “Mr. Floyd should be alive today. He should be with his fam­i­ly who con­tin­ue to show courage, grace, and resilience.”

“One year ago, a cell­phone video revealed to the coun­try what Black Amer­i­cans have known to be true for gen­er­a­tions. The ver­dict find­ing Derek Chau­vin guilty of mur­der pro­vid­ed some mea­sure of justice.”

“But one ver­dict does not address the per­sis­tent issue of police mis­con­duct and use of exces­sive force. It does not take away the Floyd family’s pain, nor the pain of all those fam­i­lies who have griev­ed the untime­ly loss of a loved one.”

“We need to do more,” the Vice Pres­i­dent continued.

“After Mr. Floyd was mur­dered, Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Karen Bass, and I intro­duced the Jus­tice in Polic­ing Act to hold law enforce­ment account­able and build trust between law enforce­ment and the com­mu­ni­ties it serves. Con­gress must move swift­ly and act 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.”

“Although it has been one year since their beloved broth­er and father was mur­dered, for the fam­i­ly – for any fam­i­ly expe­ri­enc­ing a pro­found loss – the first year can still feel like they got the news a few sec­onds ago,” said Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. “And they’ve had to relive that pain and grief each and every time those hor­rif­ic nine min­utes and twen­ty-nine sec­onds have been replayed.

“Yet the Floyd fam­i­ly has shown extra­or­di­nary courage, espe­cial­ly his young daugh­ter Gian­na, who I met again today. The day before her father’s funer­al a year ago, Jill and I met the fam­i­ly and she told me, Dad­dy changed the world.”

“He has. His mur­der launched a sum­mer of protest we hadn’t seen since the Civ­il Rights era in the ‘60s – protests that peace­ful­ly uni­fied peo­ple of every race and gen­er­a­tion to col­lec­tive­ly say enough of the sense­less killings.”

“Last month’s con­vic­tion of the police offi­cer who mur­dered George was anoth­er impor­tant step for­ward toward jus­tice. But our progress can’t stop there.”

“To deliv­er real change, we must have account­abil­i­ty when law enforce­ment offi­cers vio­late their oaths, and we need to build last­ing trust between the vast major­i­ty of the men and women who wear the badge hon­or­ably and the com­mu­ni­ties they are sworn to serve and pro­tect. We can and must have both account­abil­i­ty and trust and in our jus­tice system.”

“The nego­ti­a­tions on the George Floyd Jus­tice in Polic­ing Act in Con­gress are ongo­ing. I have strong­ly sup­port­ed the leg­is­la­tion that passed the House, and I appre­ci­ate the good-faith efforts from Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans to pass a mean­ing­ful bill out of the Sen­ate. It’s my hope they will get a bill to my desk quick­ly. We have to act. We face an inflec­tion point. The bat­tle for the soul of Amer­i­ca has been a con­stant push and pull between the Amer­i­can ide­al that we’re all cre­at­ed equal and the harsh real­i­ty that racism has long torn us apart.”

“At our best, the Amer­i­can ide­al wins out. It must again.”

“We are encour­aged by the tens of thou­sands across the coun­try who expressed sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Black com­mu­ni­ty in the wake of George Floyd’s death and those who con­tin­ue to do so,” said Nation­al Alliance on Men­tal Ill­ness CEO Daniel H. Gilli­son Jr. “We are relieved by steps tak­en toward account­abil­i­ty through the con­vic­tion of ex-police offi­cer Derek Chau­vin. We are even hope­ful for more change as we see our nation con­tin­ue con­ver­sa­tions about racial disparities.”

“But we are also still frus­trat­ed, know­ing the sys­temic issues that enabled this tragedy remain. We are still griev­ing, know­ing noth­ing can tru­ly rec­ti­fy the loss of anoth­er Black life, which could have eas­i­ly been our own, a fam­i­ly mem­ber or a friend. More than any­thing, we feel the exhaus­tion from the racial trau­ma that con­tin­ues to neg­a­tive­ly impact our phys­i­cal and men­tal health.”

“Here at NAMI, we rec­og­nize that there are no quick and easy solu­tions to the sys­temic racism that has per­me­at­ed every aspect of our soci­ety for far too long. Today, only one in three Black adults who need men­tal health care receive it.”

“But we are com­mit­ted to keep striv­ing toward more equi­table and just prac­tices with­in our own orga­ni­za­tion and with­in the men­tal health community.”

“That’s why over the last year we have cre­at­ed and bol­stered our Jus­tice, Equi­ty, Diver­si­ty, and Inclu­sion work, increased the amount of Black men­tal health resources on our web­site, host­ed a series of Help Not Hand­cuffs webi­na­rs, and cham­pi­oned leg­is­la­tion that will allow indi­vid­u­als in men­tal health crises an alter­na­tive to a 911 law enforce­ment response for support.”

“And that’s why we have inten­tion­al­ly inte­grat­ed anti-racist ini­tia­tives into our five-year strate­gic plan. We can­not ignore the inter­sec­tion of race, iden­ti­ty and men­tal health. And we are deter­mined to do our part in dis­man­tling bar­ri­ers to access­ing cul­tur­al­ly com­pe­tent resources for every indi­vid­ual in our country.”

Here are a few well writ­ten sto­ries reflect­ing on this somber anniver­sary as well as the progress — and lack of progress — since George’s mur­der a year ago:

Events hon­or­ing Floyd took place in loca­tions thou­sands of miles away from Min­neapo­lis, includ­ing Scot­land and Berlin, as you can see from this pho­to slideshow put togeth­er by the news staff of The Wall Street Jour­nal.

Inter­na­tion­al broad­cast­ers have also been cov­er­ing the anniver­sary, includ­ing Al Jazeera, the BBC, and France 24.

NPI again extends its sin­cer­est con­do­lences to the Floyd fam­i­ly and all of George’s friends on the anniver­sary of his deplorable mur­der. We agree that the best way we can hon­or his mem­o­ry is to take action. And while the George Floyd Jus­tice in Polic­ing Act does need to be passed, we should be doing more than just advo­cat­ing for fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion to ensure that Black Lives Matter.

In Wash­ing­ton State, leg­is­la­tors and Gov­er­nor Inslee have adopt­ed a pack­age of new laws that will make police more account­able to the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.

There is much more to do, but this is a sig­nif­i­cant start. We also sore­ly need more action at the local lev­el, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that most law enforce­ment agen­cies are admin­is­tered by cities and coun­ties. King Coun­ty is in the process of begin­ning the tran­si­tion to an appoint­ed sher­iff, which is good, but its neigh­bor­ing char­ter coun­ties still have right wing sher­iffs (Adam Fort­ney, Ed Troy­er) who have vio­lat­ed their oaths and ought to be prompt­ly removed from their positions.

As Pres­i­dent Oba­ma observed, dis­man­tling racist sys­tems isn’t some­thing that can usu­al­ly be done overnight. Progress often takes time, espe­cial­ly in a coun­try as large as the Unit­ed States. We must be mind­ful, how­ev­er, that jus­tice delayed is  jus­tice denied. Peo­ple who are being oppressed are tired of wait­ing to be lib­er­at­ed from racist sys­tems and oppres­sors who per­pet­u­ate them.

We must be the change we wish to see, and com­mit our­selves to strate­gic ini­tia­tives for racial jus­tice and cli­mate jus­tice that pro­vide the most help and relief to the most peo­ple as soon as human­ly possible.

Let’s do all we can in the time we have togeth­er to ensure we don’t pass on the same soci­etal inequities that we inher­it­ed to the next generation.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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