GRAND RAPIDS , Mich. — On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. It was captured on cell phone video that was quickly viewed around the country and world.
Tuesday marks one year since his death. Commissioner Robert S. Womack said there’s a lot of emotions tied to this day.
“A generation watched a person be lynched. They read about it. They’ve seen it in history books. But it’s hard to relate to it,” Womack said during an interview. “But when you see it played out on social media and you get a chance to watch the officer that killed George Floyd and you watch his emotion, he’s emotionless as if he’s killing a thing, something that was less than human. So, a new generation has been able to connect with a horrid past in the U.S. by this incident.”
That new generation and millions of others protested and marched in the streets in the days following his death. Protests broke out in Minneapolis and other major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Paris (FR), London (U.K.) and in smaller places, like Grand Rapids.
“It inspired not only Black folks to take to the streets; it inspired our righteous white brothers and sisters to take to the streets as well,” said Cle Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids Branch of the NAACP. “This time it was George Floyd’s family, but again, who’s next? And we’ve seen more and more murders even after the horrific murder of George Floyd.”
Womack said he believes the worldwide protests for George Floyd motivated people to march for Breonna Taylor, the Grand Rapids native who was shot and killed in her home in March 2020 by Louisville police during a botched raid.
Since then, Chauvin was convicted of Floyd's murder.
Jackson said it’s now time to focus on policy.
The George Floyd Policing Act, which bans chokeholds and qualified immunity, was discussed heavily and passed in the House, he said. He believes everyone has to get involved, calling and emailing legislators, to get it passed in the Senate.
“These systems will not be changed unless policy is changed. And it has to be forced,” Jackson said. “The last thing that I’ll say that we can do, which we saw in the last election is, I want to remind people that we have to keep our receipts. So, when these individuals are coming up for re-election, we get them out of there. So, what I say we have to do is we have to continue to take our behinds to the polls and to vote whenever possible.”