© 2021 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Family Of George Floyd Holds Rally, March In His Memory

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week marks one year since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by pressing his knee on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd's killing prompted protests around the world and led to a nationwide reckoning on how police treat Black Americans. Floyd's family and racial justice activists will gather tomorrow to mark the anniversary with discussions about policing and reform. Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Myron Hammonds traveled here to Minneapolis from Columbus, Ohio, for a series of events to honor George Floyd. Ahead of a rally and march last night, Hammonds said he's long supported the racial justice movement.

MYRON HAMMONDS: We need to all stand together so we can make a change, a positive change.

SEPIC: But Hammonds says this urgency for change became personal last month when a Columbus police officer killed his 16-year-old daughter.

HAMMONDS: Her name is Ma'Khia Bryant.

SEPIC: Ma'Khia had called 911 once and said she was being threatened by older girls. Police video shows the teen holding a knife while struggling with another person. She was killed minutes before a judge announced that jurors had convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of Floyd's murder. Ma'Khia's relatives are joining families of other people of color killed by law enforcement for panel discussions today, focusing on economic disparities and police reform. The George Floyd Memorial Foundation is organizing the events. At the rally, founder Bridgett Floyd said the year since her brother's murder has been long and painful.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIDGETT FLOYD: It has been very frustrating for me and my family, for your life to change within a blink of an eye.

SEPIC: But Bridgett Floyd remains hopeful that her brother's death will result in meaningful change. The Reverend Al Sharpton said convicting Chauvin was just the start. As Minnesota's two U.S. senators, Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, looked on, the veteran civil rights leader called on the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AL SHARPTON: George Floyd is not going in history as a martyr. 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.

SEPIC: The legislation, which passed the House in March, would, among other things, make it easier to prosecute police, create a national registry of law enforcement misconduct and ban chokeholds. After Floyd's murder, Minnesota lawmakers banned chokeholds statewide and outlawed warrior-style training.

But racial justice activists say that doesn't go far enough. In Minneapolis, a ballot measure expected to go to voters this fall would eliminate a long-standing requirement for a minimum number of officers based on the size of the city's population. Munira Mohamed, who's working on the campaign, says this would free up resources to implement a more holistic vision of public safety. She says that would include more resources for people facing homelessness and those suffering a mental health crisis. Despite calls by city council members last summer to defund the police department, Mohamed says the proposal would not ask voters to abolish police.

MUNIRA MOHAMED: It is whether we can start to begin to change the police department, to change the city government and to change ourselves, right, and the way we want our cities to be.

SEPIC: But others, including many Black residents of Minneapolis, are skeptical of the plan amid a spike in violent crime. As Minneapolis residents debate the future of policing, the cases against the former officers involved in Floyd's death are moving forward. Chauvin is due to be sentenced next month. Then, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao stand trial next March on charges of aiding and abetting murder. And all four face additional criminal charges in a separate federal civil rights case. For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.