Gianna Floyd, the 6-year-old daughter of George Floyd, sat on the shoulders of her father’s close friend earlier this month and declared: “Daddy changed the world!”
Gianna was right.
Thursday marks one month since Floyd, a Black man and 46-year-old father of five, was killed when Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Every day since, people across the country and around the world have marched in the streets to demand justice for him and other Black victims of police violence.
Tens of thousands of people have protested in over 100 cities in the United States. Protests also erupted around the world, including in Berlin, Paris, London, Toronto and São Paulo, sparking a renewed global reckoning over white supremacy, racism and police brutality. Every single day, people have swarmed the streets to chant “Defund the police!” and “Black lives matter!”
Just this week, organisers in New York City held nine different events in one day throughout four boroughs. At least 100 people camped out in front of City Hall on Tuesday, calling for a $1bn cut in funding to the New York City Police Department; they have vowed to stay outside the building until the city budget meeting on June 30. In Minnesota, organisers have held marches every single day and have planned a vigil for the one-month anniversary of Floyd’s death. Protests are scheduled to continue in Minneapolis through the Fourth of July, according to Facebook.
Protesters and organisers have already made progress in the fight against systemic racism, both within and outside of police departments. These victories are bittersweet ― it took brutal deaths to get them ― and overdue. The fight for reform is also far from over. But the fact that so much changed in one month highlights how historic this moment is.
We know there are many new people finally listening to what we have been saying all along and now, it’s time for solutions until we are transformed.Kailee Scales, managing director of Black Lives Matter Global Network
“We are heavy with the continued loss of lives like Raymond, Dominique, Tony, Riah, Toyin,” said Kailee Scales, managing director of Black Lives Matter Global Network, naming other Black people who have been killed recently. “Yet this global public outcry for justice leaves us hopeful for change.”
Public opinion has also made a shift: Over the last two weeks, US voters’ support for Black Lives Matter has increased nearly as much as it did over the previous two years, The New York Times reported.
“Many of us recognise this moment as one to push even harder for transformation,” Scales said. “We know there are many new people finally listening to what we have been saying all along and now, it’s time for solutions until we are transformed.”
The most basic sign of justice is that some individual officers have been held accountable for their actions.
In Minneapolis, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, and the three other officers involved in Floyd’s death have been charged with aiding and abetting. Six police officers in Atlanta were charged after a video went viral showing cops using a stun gun and dragging two Black students from a car during protests. And in Buffalo, New York, two cops were charged with shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground. The protester’s head hit the ground so hard that he fractured his skull and was in the hospital for two weeks.
The police department in Louisville, Kentucky, has also held some officers accountable for their actions: The police chief was fired and two officers were placed on administrative leave after David McAtee, a Black chef, was shot and killed when police responded to a large gathering after a curfew. One of the three officers in the city who executed a no-knock search warrant at the home of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT, was also fired. Taylor was shot at least eight times and died in her hallway after police barged into her home unannounced. The Louisville City Council has since passed Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock search warrants.
Floyd’s death has also brought renewed attention to police violence against Black women and Black transgender people, and we have seen more attention and urgency paid to past police violence and killings. More than 2 million people have signed a petition urging Colorado lawmakers to reopen an investigation into the killing of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died nearly a year ago when an Aurora cop put him in a chokehold. Even the death of Taylor, the EMT from Louisville, didn’t receive much national attention for two months; it became part of the public discussion about police brutality after Floyd was killed.
The calls to defund the police and invest in communities of colour have also led to some changes across the country. In Los Angeles, the city council introduced a proposal to redirect at least $100m to $150m from the LAPD’s budget to disadvantaged communities. In Minneapolis, a veto-proof majority of city council members pledged to “begin the process of ending” the city’s police department and promised to invest in a “new transformative model for cultivating safety.” And in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a proposal to cut the police department’s budget and shift some of that money to programs that will help communities of colour.
Police reform is now a topic of discussion in Congress, which in itself is a big step forward. However, most Republican lawmakers have not gotten on board with many of the police reform proposals put forward by Black Lives Matter and other groups. Many Democrats, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, are also shying away from demands to defund the police.
Some schools are finally cutting ties with police departments, acquiescing to the long-held belief by many organizers that policing schools does not actually keep children safe. The Minneapolis public school board voted earlier this month to end its relationship with the city’s police, and board members for the school district in Oakland, California, unanimously voted this week to eliminate its police department. The superintendent of Portland, Oregon’s public school system also said he was “discontinuing” the use of police officers in schools in the state.
Floyd’s death has also forced many to acknowledge America’s history of slavery and racism. Many have finally learned that policing was first created to return enslaved people to white slave owners.
Others are using this moment to topple monuments of Confederate leaders, of which there are over 1,700 in the U.S. People have ripped down monuments in states including Alabama, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy. Lawmakers in many states and cities — and even Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi — have called for Confederate statues to be removed.
The tech, media and sports industries are all facing a reckoning over racism in their own ranks. NASCAR announced that it would ban the display of the Confederate flag at all its events, and the NFL commissioner admitted the league was wrong for not allowing players to peacefully protest police brutality during the national anthem. Additionally, several TV shows, including “Cops” and “Live PD,” were canceled due to their depictions of police brutality.
Although this progress has been hard-fought and well-earned, there is much more work to be done. Many issues still remain: Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death still may get off; none of the Louisville cops who killed Taylor have been charged in her death; we have yet to see if city council members from across the country will actually follow through on their promises to divest from police and invest in communities of color.
And one major issue lingers: What happens when no one is filming these incidents of police brutality and racism? How many times has there been no video?
This is not the time to rest, Scales said, because communities of color deserve reinvestment.
“Imagine a world where a mental health episode was met with compassion and nurturing instead of an armed officer. Imagine a world where housing was offered to the houseless instead of people being met by individuals trained to de escalate with violence,” she said. “It’s time to reimagine what protection and safety can look like.”