Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Activists Plan Dance Party to Celebrate Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death

'We're going to be celebrating 365 days of strength in the face of injustice...'

The Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd took his final breaths is to be transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival on the anniversary of his death, with food, children’s activities and a long list of musical performers.

“We’re going to be turning mourning into dancing,” rapper Nur-D tweeted. “We’re going to be celebrating 365 days of strength in the face of injustice.”

Floyd, 46, died on Memorial Day 2020 while in custody of then-Officer Derek Chauvin, who used an apparent neck restraint to pin him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes.

Medical opinions varied on whether the restraint contributed to the death of Floyd, who was discovered to have a fatal dose of fentanyl and other drugs in his system and to be experiencing heart failure at the time.

But despite the inconclusiveness, Chauvin was convicted last month on three counts, including premeditated murder.

He faces sentencing June 25, although reports of witness intimidation and biased jurors could potentially result in a mistrial if he chooses to appeal. Three other fired officers as a result of their involvement still face trials, including possible federal civil rights charges.

The site of Floyd’s death, 38th and Chicago, was taken over by activists soon after and remains barricaded to traffic.

The “Rise and Remember George Floyd” celebration, including a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m., caps several days of marches, rallies and panel discussions about his death and where America is in confronting racial discrimination.

Many members of the Floyd family are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, in a private meeting with President Joe Biden, who called family members after the Chauvin verdict and pledged to continue fighting for racial justice.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said he hoped Biden will renew his support for a policing reform bill named for George Floyd. The legislation 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.”

Yet, support for more radical proposals, such as defunding and abolishing police departments, has met with considerable backlash and has proven to be an abject failure in many of the Democrat-run cities where it has been attempted, including Minneapolis.

Nonetheless, black activists see a silver lining in the legacy that Floyd’s death left behind, triggering what often has been described as a nationwide racial reckoning in both the political and cultural arenas.

And following months of violent riots that left at least a dozen others dead in their wake, as well as untold millions in property damage, they now see cause for celebration.

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.”

Nur-D, whose real name is Matt Allen, took to the Minneapolis streets in the days after Floyd’s death, often providing medical assistance to protesters who were shot or gassed in confrontations with police. He 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 at what’s informally known as George Floyd Square.

“If you’re angry, you can be angry. If you’re sad, you can be sad,” Nur-D said in a follow-up interview. “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 has stockpiled 3,000 items surrounding Floyd’s death—things like artwork left behind in the square—and will display some of them 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 where he died, as well as broader grants “encouraging the success and growth of [b]lack 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.

The event at George Floyd Square was due to start at 1 p.m., the same time Gov. Tim Walz asked Minnesotans to pause for a moment of silence to honor Floyd.

Walz, a Democrat, asked that the moment last for 9 minutes, 29 seconds—the length of time that prosecutors say Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Walz’s proclamation says Chauvin’s guilty verdict was a step in the right direction, “but our work to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination has not ended. 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.”

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