President Joe Biden spoke with George Floyd’s family on Tuesday, pressing for police reform while demonstrators around the country highlight the police violence that has persisted in the year since Floyd’s death prompted a nationwide reckoning on race.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after former officer Derek Chauvin knelt for more than 9 minutes on the back of his leg, triggering cardiopulmonary arrest. Chauvin and three other officers attempted to apprehend Floyd on charges of using counterfeit money at a convenience store.
Floyd’s murder, which was captured on several witness footage, prompted nationwide demonstrations against disproportionate police force and racial discrimination. Americans took to the streets to demand justice for Floyd and other Black men and women, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who were still reeling from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmingly impacted Black populations.
To mark the anniversary, Biden welcomed members of Floyd’s family at the White House on Tuesday.
“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,” Biden said in a statement. “And they’ve had to relive that pain and grief each and every time those horrific 9 minutes and 29 seconds have been replayed.”
Biden compared the nationwide protests after Floyd’s death to activism during the Civil Rights era in the 1960s.
“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,” Biden said. “We can and must have both accountability and trust and in our justice system.”
Biden has met multiple times with the Floyd family, including at the funeral in Houston.
Prior to their meeting with Biden, the Floyd family met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill. Bass is involved in negotiations on a police reform bill.
“I stand here to renew the commitment that we will get this bill on President Biden’s desk,” she told reporters after the meeting.
“We will work until we get the job done. It will be passed in a bipartisan manner. And so that is a commitment that we are making.”
In recent weeks, Biden has encouraged lawmakers to the reform legislation by the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death. It hasn’t happened. A month ago, a Minnesota jury found Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. In a separate case, the Floyd family was awarded $27 million in a settlement with the city of Minneapolis.
The family called Chauvin’s guilty verdict a “turning point” for police accountability, but acknowledged that the fight for racial justice doesn’t end there, in Floyd’s case and others.
“We have not forgotten that the other three officers who played their own roles in the death of George Floyd must still be held accountable for their actions, as well,” Ben Crump, a member of the Floyd family legal team, said after the April 20 verdict.
Three other former officers who were involved in Floyd’s arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. They’re scheduled to stand trial together in March.
The Sentencing Project said Thursday that Floyd’s death is just one example of the over-policing and and over-sentencing Black people face in America.
According to an analysis of three decades of data, the non-profit organization said Black youth are five times more likely to be incarcerated compared to White youth, and Black Americans of all ages are incarcerated in state prisons at five times the rate of White Americans. Black women are twice as likely to be imprisoned as White women, and one in five Black men in prison are serving life sentences.
This over-policing has a trickle-down effect, too, with one in 15 Black adults unable to vote because of a prior felony conviction, compared to one in 59 non-Black adults.
“The over-policing, overcharging and over-incarceration of people of color, especially Black Americans, causes great harm to all Americans,” said Amy Fettig, executive director of The Sentencing Project. “To achieve racial justice, we must transform the entire criminal legal system to focus on humanity, rehabilitation, prevention and public safety for all — not just a privileged few.”
Since Floyd’s death, police killings of Black Americans have continued, including another in Hennepin County, Minn. — 20-year-old Daunte Wright on April 11.
Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter will stand trial in December on second-degree manslaughter charges for shooting Wright. She told authorities she thought she pulled out her Taser to stun Wright, but instead shot him with her firearm.
In Ohio, a former Columbus police officer, Adam Coy, faces a murder charge for the shooting death of the unarmed Andre Hill in December.
To mark one year since Floyd’s death, activists are planning to call attention to the continuation of police use of force and honor Floyd with a series of events.
In Minneapolis, Tuesday is the culmination of a three-day commemoration that included a rally and march outside the Hennepin County Courthouse on Sunday and panel discussions Monday.
On Tuesday, there will be a celebration of Floyd through art and culture at the Commons, a community art event with children’s activities and an open mic at George Floyd Square, and a vigil in his honor at 8 p.m. at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.
The three days of events were organized in part by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation founded by his sister, Bridgett Floyd.
“I really thought my brother’s death would be the last police brutality case, but as we can all see, they are at it again and again and again,” she told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“We are human beings. We bleed the same way they bleed. The same breath God put in our body, he puts in their body.”
In Dallas, the Next Generation Action Network organized a week of events, including a solidarity march and rally outside the Dallas Police Department’s headquarters on Tuesday.
“The Next Generation Action Network hosts these days of commemoration in hopes that the George Floyd Week will not only allow for a space for community healing but educate people on where local and federal legislation is currently standing,” the organization said in a statement.
“We also hope to bring awareness to the lives of Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Adam Toledo, and the devastatingly large number of people who have yet to get justice for their deaths.”
In Boston, state leaders and other elected officials are leading a march Tuesday from Parkway United Methodist Church in Milton to Walker Park in Mattapan.
In Houston on Saturday, where Floyd was raised and buried, his family held a march from MacGregor Park to Jack Yates High School, his alma mater. Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner participated.
On Sunday, Floyd’s brother Terrence led a March in New York City along with the National Action Network.
“Now it is time to continue the legacy of George Floyd, it is time to continue the good work,” Jacari Harris, the George Floyd Memorial Foundation’ director, said at a news conference last week.
“It is time to continue to hold our police officers accountable, our elected officials accountable. It is time to ensure that we bring healing and unity within the community.”