COVERING A YEAR LATER: HOW LOCAL COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE FOR BLACK LIVES AFTER GEORGE FLOYD’S MURDER
TDR Regular Contributor / October 19, 2021
George Floyd’s death resonated with people across the country and around the world.
In the immediate aftermath, protests cropped up in cities near and far. Politicians and grassroots organizers have come together to change laws around policing and police brutality. Larger corporations began giving funds to organizations doing racial justice work, allowing them to expand their reach.
When the Derick Chauvin verdict finally came down, people celebrated from coast to coast. On that day, George Floyd’s uncle Roger Floyd said to ABC11 that, “As a family, we are so gratified to get the result that we had prayed for. A verdict of guilty on all three counts. It was just solidified today, what the world had been anticipating for almost a year.”
Some mourners have even come out to see the place where Floyd was killed. New Yorker and journalist Lisa Argrette Ahmad, who visited the site of Floyd’s death with her daughter, wrote that Floyd’s death resonated a little too closely. “Had I been born to another mother, in another city, at another time, this could have been my life,” she wrote.
But Minneapolis, specifically, is still struggling.
Just this month, over footage of police officers joking about “hunting civilians,” surfaced from over a year ago. The officers in a separate fatal shooting of Winston “Boogie” Smith were recently exonerated. And as LaTonya Floyd mentioned in a previous article, three of the officers involved in George Floyd’s murder have yet to be tried.
Despite this, the community is doing its best to heal itself. On Oct. 14, George Floyd’s birthday, friends and family came together to celebrate his life. Local activists have come together to try to put systems into place that would prevent more police violence from once again tearing the city apart.
That prevention, in part, is contingent on the upcoming Nov. 2 election, where one of the questions on the ballot has to do with expanding public safety in the hopes that they will be able to handle certain 911 calls that do not require police officers with guns.
One coalition, Yes4Minneapolis, has been trying to spread information about the question, which will be number two on the ballot. The coalition consists of several organizations, such as ACLU Minnesota, Asian American Organizing Project, Jewish Community Action and Women for Political Change, among others.
“The charter amendment is proving to be very controversial,” said University of Minnesota professor P. Jay Kidrowski. “There are some that are sponsoring that and working to get it approved, and there are a number of other org working to keep it from happening.”
The amendment was first approved by the city council only to be rejected by a district court. The Minnesota Supreme Court cleared it in time for it to appear on the ballot.
Of the court’s decision, Terrance Moore, an attorney for Yes4Minneapolis, told Minnesota Public Radio, “As ugly as it sometimes looks, the process went through from beginning to end, and in the end, the Supreme Court followed the law and its precedent. And the voters get to vote on the ballot question.”
The mayoral election is also on Nov. 2 and includes 16 candidates. Incumbent Jacob Frey is running along with four Democrats, two Republicans, and a number of independent and write-in candidates. The last time Minnesota elected a Republican mayor was in 1957.
Candidates who are also proponents of Yes4Minneapolis’ goal of having a more public-safety-oriented approach to policing include Frey, AJ Awed, Sheila Nezhad, and Katherine Knuth, all registered democrats.
“Many organizations of color support it and want to have an amendment, but there’s a lot of misinformation that’s gone out there,” said Minnesota resident Denise Konen. “[Proponents] just want a public safety department, which would mean we wouldn’t always have to send a cop with a gun.”
Konen does not see politics as a path to healing for her community, though. Whatever happens in the election, she believes the community itself is what will change things.
“There are a lot of grassroots things happening,” Konen said. “I think that’s the stuff that’s going to change things in the end. There’s so much changing among us and in us.”
She cited George Floyd Square as a place for people to come together and grieve. Located on the corner of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, George Floyd Square boasts sculptures, murals, and art installations.
The “Say Their Names Cemetery” falls into the latter category. A total of 150 headstones sit marked with the names of police brutality victims, including Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Jamar Clark, and Aiyana Jones.
Konen herself works with Black Lives Matter Lawn Signs, an organization that sells Black Lives Matter signs and donates the proceeds to Black-led organizations. She has headed up the organization since 2015 and says they generally see spikes after very public instances of police brutality, which can be frustrating, as she would prefer for people to care all the time, not just when Black people are killed on the news.
Still, Konen has seen “a lot of transformation in people’s hearts” over the last year or so. In an ironic twist, she has been using the pandemic to her advantage as a way to reach out to more people. She has met with activists from all over the country because of the push to online meetings.
“There’s so much that’s changed,” she said. “People are challenging themselves and creating communities. That will make a difference. Nobody can stop that if it’s real.”