People have rallied in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in advance of the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, which sparked mass protests across the United States for an end to police violence against Black people.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder last month after he held his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest on May 25 last year.
Demonstrators gathered on Sunday outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where Chauvin’s trial was held, to commemorate Floyd’s life and demand action to combat police violence and anti-Black racism.
The George Floyd Memorial Foundation, a group founded by Floyd’s sister Bridgett Floyd, said the event aimed “to demonstrate our continued call for accountability and reform, because the right to equal justice should not be conditional or based upon a person’s color”.
Several other rallies and events are being held across the US to mark the anniversary on Tuesday.
“It’s getting real close to the day,” Bridgett Floyd told reporters earlier this week, as reported by Minneapolis NBC News affiliate KARE11.
“And I feel like as close as the days come I get a little stronger than I was last year, and that’s because I have been through so much in this last year. I have no choice but to be strong and carry this weight, and carry this position that God has put me in. Because I didn’t see it coming, none of us did,” she said.
‘Step in the right direction’
Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent US civil rights leader, was in Minneapolis on Sunday to join the Floyd family, which he said “has not only suffered the pain but have been the ones to stand for the justice in this matter”.
“The Chauvin verdict was a step in the right direction, but it was a step,” Sharpton told MSNBC before the rally. “We have a long way to go. I’m glad we’re on the right path, but we must continue that path.”
Last month, US President Joe Biden described Chauvin’s conviction on three criminal charges related to Floyd’s killing as a “step forward”.
“‘I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words. We cannot let them die with him. We have to keep hearing them. We must not turn away. We cannot turn away. This can be a moment of significant change,” Biden said at that time.
But activists and others have questioned just how much has actually changed in the year since Floyd was killed.
“Every time you turn the news on, there’s been a Black man either beat down by the police or murdered – and they’re unarmed,” James Shoals, a Minneapolis resident who attended the rally, told Al Jazeera. “We’re not getting the justice we deserve,” Shoals said.
Police reform bill
Meanwhile, Biden will host the Floyd family at the White House on Tuesday, US media outlets reported this weekend.
His administration has urged Congress to pass police reform legislation before the anniversary of Floyd’s killing, but those efforts have stalled and US legislators are likely to miss the Tuesday deadline.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who is involved in bipartisan negotiations on the bill – known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – told CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday that while “meaningful progress” had been made, no deal has been reached yet.
“We’re making good progress, hopeful progress, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Booker said.
Racial justice activists also have pointed out that police violence against Black people has continued since Floyd’s killing a year ago, fuelling continuing calls for action.
Just this week, police in the US state of Louisiana released footage showing a violent May 2019 arrest of a Black man who died in hospital after the incident.
Officers originally said Ronald Greene died after his car hit a tree during a police chase, but the footage shows police dragging Greene from his car and then shackling, beating and tasering him repeatedly. The case is subject to a federal civil rights investigation, The Associated Press news agency said.
“We need to get legislation that will hold officers accountable signed into law,” Congresswoman Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who is also involved in negotiations on the police reform bill, tweeted on Thursday about Greene’s death.
“We really thought my brother’s death would be the last police brutality case,” Bridgett Floyd also said this week. “But as we all can see, they are at it again and again and again.”
She said she was confident the police reform bill would be passed, however, KARE11 reported.
“These police officers need to be held accountable for their actions,” she said. “So they can know that when they break the law, when they take a loved one from someone, they’ll think twice about it.”