Wednesday, May 25, 2022

“We’re Standing in the Place Where a Black Man Was Lynched in Public”

Remembering George Floyd,
Two Years On

Writing today on the second anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd, Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio News examines the lack of any substantive change in how police treat people of color. Following, with added images and links, is an excerpt.


Wednesday marks two years since a police officer killed George Floyd [right] on a Minneapolis street corner, setting off global racial justice protests. Derek Chauvin is in prison for murder and even though the three other former officers on duty with him are also likely to face prison time, many Minneapolis residents say that the systemic changes needed to prevent such killings are still far from reality.

At 38th Street East and Chicago Avenue South, where George Floyd was killed, cars and trucks trickle through a makeshift roundabout that encircles a Black Power fist sculpted of steel. Soon after the murder, people from around the world began coming here to pay their respects to Floyd and to join the calls for racial justice that his murder ignited. And they’re still coming.

LaMyra Sanders of Columbia, S.C. stopped by on Friday. Sanders says she’s hopeful that the movement will bring a fundamental shift in American policing. But she concedes that it won’t happen overnight.

“There’s a place of sadness that still looms here. And it is our prayer that one day justice will be served, and that this will not be a problem. There’s plenty of work to be done.”

While countless numbers of people have passed through George Floyd Square over the last two years, Marcia Howard has been a constant presence here, leading a protest occupation of about a dozen people who keep the area tidy and watch for trouble. Her group met recently to discuss how they’ll welcome the throngs of visitors expected for anniversary events, starting with Wednesday’s candlelight vigil.

Minneapolis city leaders want to build a permanent memorial to Floyd as part of work to repave the street and upgrade public transit. But Howard, a Black 49-year-old high school English teacher and retired Marine, vows not to let that happen until there’s a substantive change in how police treat people of color.

“The only thing that seems to change anything in the city of Minneapolis is collective action. We’re not burning down Lake Street. We’re not walking down University Avenue,” Howard said. “We’re standing in place, in situ, where a Black man was lynched in public. And we’re saying we’re not moving.”

Those calls were loudest immediately following the killing. Less than two weeks after Floyd’s murder, nine Minneapolis City Council members, a supermajority, stood on a stage at Powderhorn Park and pledge to “dismantle” the MPD. At their feet in large block letters were the words “DEFUND POLICE.”

That did not happen. The council has continued to fund the department, including new recruit classes to replace the hundreds of officers who’ve left.

Despite an opinion poll showing low trust in the MPD, 56 percent voters in November rejected a proposal to replace the department with a new city safety agency that would have included armed law enforcement “if necessary.”

The plan was bold, but its lack of details likely scared off voters, said Kami Chavis, who leads the Criminal Justice Program at Wake Forest University’s law school.

“I think it was probably just a bridge too far for some people to say: ‘Wait a minute. We’re going to do away with what we have, and we’re not sure what this new thing is that you’re proposing,’” Chavis said.

Chavis said that any transformational shift in policing is likely to come from the courts. Last month, Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero called for judicial oversight of the MPD after releasing the results of a two-year investigation that found a “pattern or practice” racial discrimination. The U.S. Justice Department began a similar investigation more than a year ago.


Following is a 9-minute segment from this evening’s broadcast of PBS Newshour. In this segment, Fred de Sam Lazaro interviews Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa, the authors of the recently published book, His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice. It’s a landmark book, one that powerfully examines Floyd’s life within the context of America’s ongoing struggle with systemic racism.

Related Off-site Links:
Two Years After George Floyd Murder, Biden to Issue Executive Order on Police Reform – Julia Conley (Common Dreams, May 24, 2022).
In Focus: George Floyd’s Legacy and Impact – Angela Davis, Rachel Yang and MPR News Staff (MPR News, May 25, 2022).
Making George Floyd’s Square: The People Who Transformed 38th and Chicago – Christine T. Nguyen, Megan Burks and Evan Frost (MPR News, December 2, 2020).
Historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad: Policing in U.S. Was Built on Racism and Should Be Put on TrialDemocracy Now! (April 21, 2021).
“His Name Is George Floyd”: Two Years After Police Murder, His Life and the Struggle for Racial JusticeDemocracy Now! (May 23, 2022).
George Floyd Biography Explores the Systemic Racism That Contributed to His Death – Fred de Sam Lazaro and Sam Lane (PBS Newshour, May 25, 2022).
His Name is George Floyd by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa Review: The Murder That Shamed the U.S. – Kehinde Andrews (The Guardian, May 22, 2022).

UPDATE: Minneapolis Renames Intersection to Honor George Floyd – Mohamed Ibrahim (Associated Press News, May 26, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“I Can’t Breathe”: The Murder of George Floyd
He Called Mama. He Has Called Up Great Power
Honoring George Floyd
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Mayor Melvin Carter: “The Anger Is Real, and I Share It With You”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Trevor Noah on the “Dominoes of Racial Injustice”
Emma Jordan-Simpson: “There Will Be No Peace Without Justice”
Out and About – Spring 2020
The Language of the Oppressor
A Very Intentional First Day of the Year
The Problem Is Ultimately Bigger Than Individuals. It’s Systemic
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz: “We Need to Make Systemic Changes”
“Let This Be a Turning Point”
Remembering George Floyd on the First Anniversary of His Murder
“An Abolitionist Demand”: Progressive Perspectives on Transforming Policing in the U.S.
Hamilton Nolan: Quote of the Day – August 3, 2021

See also:
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
“Say Her Name” Solidarity Action for Sandra Bland
“We Are All One” – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Nancy A. Heitzeg: Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
“This Doesn't Happen to White People”
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
“And Still and All, It Continues”
“This Has Got to Stop”
Love, Justice, and Amir Locke
Photo of the Day, 5/3/2015: “Black Is Sacred”
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part I)
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part II)
Something to Think About – March 25, 2016

Image 1: Mourners gather at a tribute to George Floyd in Minneapolis at the site of his death. (Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)
Image 2: Artist unknown.
Image 3: Michael J. Bayly.
Image 4: MPR News.

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