Moment of silence marks year since George Floyd’s death

A person kneels with a sign in front of a mural.
A person kneels with a sign at George Floyd Square after the verdict was announced in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on April 20. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death.
Chandan Khanna | AFP via Getty Images file

Updated: 6:46 p.m.

George Floyd was honored Tuesday with a moment of silence in the city where he died at the hands of police, a death captured on wrenching bystander video that galvanized the racial justice movement and continues to ripple a year later.

Floyd’s sister Bridgett and other family members joined Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, citizens and activists at a downtown park to observe the moment at an event that included music and food trucks.

“It’s been a troubling year, a long year,” Bridgett Floyd told the crowd. “But we made it. They say with God all things are possible and I’m a true believer in that ... The love is very outpouring today. The love is here. George is here."

A moment of silence was also held in New York and a rally was held in Los Angeles to honor Floyd. Globally, a rally took place in Germany and Floyd's death was marked by U.S. embassies in Greece and Spain.

Warren Terry, a college student who travelled from Dallas, told MPR News he couldn’t be more excited to be in Minneapolis to celebrate George Floyd’s life.

“Typically, when we deal with Black Lives Matter and things that affect African Americans related to police brutality, it’s always a tragedy, it’s always demonization. It’s always tearing down the image or reputation of them,” Terry said. “We wanted to turn tragedy into a triumphant moment. Although George Floyd’s life was ended, there’s so much more to celebrate because of the work that’s been done afterward.”

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At a separate gathering at the intersection where Floyd was killed, 18-year-old Faith Allen of St. Paul said she was glad to see hundreds show their support at George Floyd Square. But she said there’s much more work to do, especially as it relates to pushing for change in policing.

“We won, but that doesn't mean we're finished,” Allen said. “We still have to fight.”

Mark Riley, who now lives in Atlanta, was in town for business. He said Floyd’s killing was a “modern-day lynching” that affected the entire planet — but didn’t surprise many Black Americans. 

“I remember all nine minutes and 29 seconds,” Riley said. “This is a traumatic event, so I think part of the healing is coming to see it, and sitting with the emotions that come with it.”

Although the gathering took on the festive air of a block party, it was disrupted by gunfire just hours before the event.

Associated Press video from 38th Street and Chicago Avenue — informally known as George Floyd Square — showed people running for cover as shots rang out. Police said a man, who they believe was injured in the shooting, later went to a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound. Police spokesperson John Elder said he was in critical condition but was expected to survive.

Philip Crowther, a reporter working for AP Global Media Services, which provides live video coverage, reported hearing as many as 30 gunshots about a block from the intersection. Crowther said a storefront window appeared to have been broken by gunshots

“Very quickly things got back to normal,” Crowther said. “People here who spend a significant amount of time, the organizers, were running around asking, ‘Does anyone need a medic?’ It seems like there are no injuries."

Police said witnesses reported seeing a vehicle speeding away. Elder said no one was in custody by midday Tuesday.

The shooting almost immediately became fodder in state politics. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, the top elected Republican in the state, said violence in Minneapolis can only be stopped by adding more police. 

“It’s not reforming police right now, that should not be the message, it’s get the police out on the streets, everybody cheer them on as they take back our streets,” Gazelka said. “We need more of them in Minneapolis.”

Politicians from across the country remarked on the significance of the anniversary and the events that have transpired since Floyd’s murder. Tim Walz said the guilty verdicts against Derek Chauvin were just one of many steps in the right direction.

”True justice for George Floyd will come only through real, systemic change to prevent acts like this from happening again — when every member of every community, no matter their race, is safe, valued, and protected,” Walz said.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the former officers charged in Floyd’s killing, released a lengthy statement Tuesday arguing that “the moment for making meaningful change is now.”

Ellison said he knows that guilty verdicts are important, but that meaningful change needs to involve all levels of government, including the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the U.S. Congress.

“The time for prosecutors to commit themselves to equal justice for anyone who commits a crime whether they wear a badge or not, and to the proposition that no one is above the law and no one is beneath it, is now,” Ellison said. “And the time for all Americans of all backgrounds to do the hard work of ending racism and white supremacy once and for all is now.”

Mayor Frey said in a statement that Black Americans are still routinely denied justice.

“It is unacceptable to say Black Lives Matter only after a Black person has been murdered,” Frey said. “We need to work together towards real systemic changes and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”

Frey is in charge of the Minneapolis Police Department and has introduced some policy changes within the department. But a citizen petition to remove language that requires a minimum staff for the Minneapolis Police Department and creates a new Department of Public Safety will likely go before voters in November. It would give the Minneapolis City Council more control of law enforcement and allow them to start shifting resources from police officers to social workers and others who can intervene non-violently.

Violence on the rise

Like other major cities, Minneapolis has been struggling with rising gun violence, a problem made worse, in part, by many officers leaving the embattled force since Floyd's death. A 6-year-old girl was fatally shot and two other children wounded in recent weeks. Frey last week unveiled sweeping public safety proposals aimed at fixing the problem. Other groups are pursuing a more radical remaking of the police department.

The intersection of 38th and Chicago has been barricaded since soon after Floyd's death and quickly turned into a memorial — and also a challenging spot for the city, with police officers not always welcome.

The square was transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival, with food, children’s activities and a long list of musical performers. The “Rise and Remember George Floyd” celebration, including a candlelight vigil, caps several days of marches, rallies and panel discussions about his death and confronting racial discrimination.

Floyd, 46, who was Black, died on Memorial Day 2020 after then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.

Darnella Frazier, who was 17 when she recorded video of Floyd’s killing that went viral, posted on Facebook on the anniversary of his death. She talked about the trauma of witnessing the killing, the effect on her family and how it made her as a Black person feel about law enforcement. 

“These officers shouldn’t get to decide if someone gets to live or not. It’s time these officers start getting held accountable,” Frazier wrote. “Murdering people and abusing your power while doing it is not doing your job.”

Frazier ended her post by wishing Floyd peace: “May you rest in the most beautiful roses.”

Gov. Tim Walz on the George Floyd anniversary, police reform

In New York City, elected officials including Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in kneeling for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. “As we took a knee, imagine how long that was on a human being’s neck,” Sharpton said. “Never switched knees, just dug in. It’s time we correct policing in this country.”

Many Floyd family members met with President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. Biden called family members after the Chauvin verdict and pledged to continue fighting for racial justice.

Biden said negotiations for policing reform named for George Floyd are ongoing, and the conviction of Chauvin was an “important step forward toward justice. But our progress can’t stop there.”

“To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths,” Biden said in a statement, “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. We can and must have both accountability and trust and in our justice system.”

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said he hoped Biden will renew his support for policing reform named for George Floyd that would ban chokeholds and no-knock police raids and create a national registry for officers disciplined for serious misconduct.

“Now is time to act,” Crump said Tuesday on CNN. “Not just talk but act.”

Floyd’s brother Philonise, appearing alongside Crump, said he thinks about George “all the time.”

“My sister called me at 12 o’clock last night and said ’This is the day our brother left us,'” he said, adding: “I think things have changed. I think it is moving slowly but we are making progress.”

Bridgett Floyd told the crowd in Minneapolis that Biden broke his promise. “We need that bill passed. We don’t want a watered down bill … My message to the president: Get your people in order ... We’re going to continue to fight this good old fight.”

Rapper Nur-D, whose real name is Matt Allen, was among those who took to the Minneapolis streets after Floyd's death and eventually founded an organization, Justice Frontline Aid, to support safe protest. He described the past year as “like we've lived 20 years inside of one" and hoped that people would feel “honesty and a real sense of togetherness” during Tuesday's celebration.

“If you're angry, you can be angry. If you're sad, you can be sad,” Nur-D said. “If you're feeling some sense of joy over the verdict and some sort of like step in the right direction, and you want to celebrate that, do that as well.”

The event was organized by the George Floyd Global Memorial. Angela Harrelson, an aunt of Floyd's and a member of the board of directors, said the organization will display some artwork left at George Floyd Square in a pop-up gallery.

Separately, the Floyd family announced the launch of a fund that will make grants to businesses and community organizations in the neighborhood, as well as broader grants “encouraging the success and growth of Black citizens and community harmony.” The money comes from $500,000 earmarked as part of the city's $27 million civil settlement for the Floyd family earlier this year.