Tuesday, May 25, was the one-year anniversary of the death of a man who, as his daughter said, “changed the world.” Last year the death of George Floyd, 46, at the hands of the police shook the country to its core after a 17-year-old girl’s video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds went viral.
In front of the Brooklyn Museum, hundreds gathered on Tuesday to mourn and honor the life of George Floyd and hold a moment of silence.
“It did not just feel like a victory because of the Derek Chauvin trial. It did not just feel like a victory when a black person survived and it’s not another hashtag during the day. It feels like a victory when we get to celebrate and we get to see beautiful black smiles and that is what this vigil is about,” said Nia White, lead organizer of Freedom March NYC. “So I would like to open up this space and let it be known that George Floyd is not a martyr. I will say that again, George Floyd is not this movement’s martyr.”
After Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter, politicians came out saying Mr. Floyd’s death was a sacrifice for the country’s awakening to police brutality. Chauvin nowfaces 75 years in prison.
Speaker Pelosi at the Congressional Black Caucus presser after Chauvin verdict:
“Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice.” pic.twitter.com/JfapSsKdtXApril 20, 2021
“Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that?” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference after the Derek Chauvin trial.
“He is not your martyr; he is not your excuse to wake up and shout in these streets ‘Black Lives Matter!’ You should remember that every single day of your life,” Nia continued. “George Floyd was a life before he was a hashtag. He was a father; he was a son.”
Before the vigil, a rally was held at Foley Square and then a march from there to Brooklyn Museum across Brooklyn Bridge.
Today is one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. Brooklyn Bridge has been shut down. pic.twitter.com/T6PjpQx1ucMay 25, 2021
“I gotta say, I don’t feel strong today,” said Akeem Browder, brother of Kalief Browder.
Kalief Browder was in Rikers Island jail for three years, including two years in solitary confinement without trial for allegedly stealing a backpack at 16. All charges were dropped against him, and two years after he was released from prison Browder committed suicide. Yesterday was Kalief Browder’s birth and his brother spoke at the rally for George Floyd.
“My brother didn’t just take his life. He was pushed as so many others. How many others realize how close we really are not just because we come to these protests, which bring closeness. A lot of people don’t even know Sandra Bland is my cousin. Our lives are taken and we don’t even realize how close we are to it. Tomorrow I might be a hashtag. Tomorrow it might be one of us. So let today count.”
A bill introduced last summer to end chokeholds and qualified immunity protections for officers named after George Floyd still sits in the US Senate after being passed in the House.
It’s been 400 years since the first ship carrying enslaved Africans brought to this country against their will. Slavery also ended 155 years ago, but to this day, black people in this country continued to be marginalized and brutalized by the systems that were built to keep them down.
“I was in Minneapolis when everything first broke out and I remember seeing everything burn down to the ground around me. I remember almost losing my life to the police in Minneapolis,” said Nupol Kiazolu, an activist and organizer from Brooklyn. “From the ashes and the rubble that surrounded Minneapolis and cities across this country and world, a new flower came. Love, humanity, justice, and community. And when I say justice, I don’t mean the three counts Chauvin got. I am talking about the love that came out of this community.”
Black people are three times more likely to be killed at the hands of police than white people, even though they make up 13% of the U.S. population. The group mapping police violence also found that “levels of violent crime in US cities do not determine rates of police violence.”
“I don’t think justice was served [referring to Derek Chauvin’s conviction]. I think there’s still a lot of work to do,” said Amy Garapic, 35, a percussionist who joined the movement during summer to keep people’s spirits up through her music. “The entire police forces are who killed George Floyd, not just Derek Chauvin. And I think until we really see some measures that are changed within the police departments around the country, we’re still waiting for justice.”
Courtney Wilson, 26, and D’Arel Miller, 31, both came together to the march and vigil. “How could we not? This is our life,” said Wilson. They both have been part of the Black Lives Matter movement since before George Floyd was murdered.
Courtney Wilson and D’Arel Miller hold a sign saying “Say Their Names” in a Foley Square rally.
“From birth, we are told, you’re black you’re gonna experience life completely different than other people in America, around the world. It’s always the ‘be better,’ ‘mind what you say’ and at the end of the day your experience is not very easy,” said Miller. “So today is definitely also about showing up for George Floyd but making sure that he’s not a martyr. Like he didn’t die for this cause. He didn’t want to die.”