Community members, activists reflect, call for justice on Floyd ‘angelversary’

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, marked two years since the murder of George Perry Floyd, Jr. by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. The murder, where Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill, was met by worldwide protests and calls for police reform. 

To mark the two-year observance, the George Floyd Global Memorial is hosting “Rise and Remember,” a series of events to take place through the Memorial Day weekend. 

Several hundred people attended the events on May 25, which included the installment of a new “George Perry Floyd Square” commemorative street sign on 38th St. and Chicago Ave. where a memorial has been set up in Floyd’s honor since he was killed there on Memorial Day in 2020. 

Members of Floyd’s family pulled back the fabric covering the sign to reveal the new sign to the community.

At the same time, a candlelight vigil was held at 37th and Park Ave. at the “Say Their Names Cemetery,” a collection of cardboard tombstones with names of BIPOC community members who were slain by police. Attendees brought candles to each of the over 100 tombstones.

The last event of the night was a “community pour,” where community members were given small cups of water to pour into a container. Attendees were encouraged to say words of wisdom or think of someone they had lost in their own lives as they emptied their cups. The collected water will be used to nurture the new spring plants kept at the greenhouse at George Floyd Square. 

Floyd’s Aunt, Angela Harrelson, gave the opening speech as attendees of the vigil returned to the Square from the “Say Their Names” Cemetery. 

“Even though [Floyd is] not here with us, the door’s open now for change,” Harrelson said. “We have been on a sleeping giant—White America didn’t know it was a sleeping giant. But when he died, those doors just rushed right open. And we as Brown and Black Americans are saying no more, no more, no more. 

“Better is not good enough,” she added, citing conditions for BIPOC communities. “We just need to make it equal.”

A bronze symbol was cast towards the end of the night by members of the Chicago Avenue Fine Arts Center. Mileesha Smith was one of the two people who poured the molten bronze into the mold of a Sankofa bird symbol.

“The actual bird is flying, but the head is looking behind him,” Smith explained. “The Sankofa meaning is knowing where you’ve been, so you know where you’re going.”

The Sankofa bird casting will be preserved by the George Floyd Global Memorial, which was created to maintain the offerings left by visitors to the Square and curate spaces “for all people to grieve, pay respect, and be a voice for justice,” according to its Facebook page. Several of Floyd’s family members sit on the organization’s board, including Harrelson. 

Hiatia Gregory was one of many Twin Cities residents that attended Wednesday’s events. “I want to give thanks for being able to be here today to pay respect to George Floyd, to be in the community today, and just really spread the love,” Gregory said. 

“I feel like it was a modern-day lynching what happened to him,” she continued, “and I’m grateful that I can be here today to walk in unity, so he didn’t go in vain. We’re still marching for justice, and I pray that he’s resting in peace.”

Activists also gathered in St. Paul

Photo by Henry Pan Toshira Garraway comforts Del Shea Perry at a rally outside the Governor’s mansion to demand justice for lives stolen by law enforcement on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder.

Earlier in the day in St. Paul, about 50 people gathered in front of the Governor’s Mansion to demand justice for victims of police violence.

One of them was Del Shea Perry, mother of Hardel Sherrell, who died in 2018 while in custody at the Beltrami County jail in Bemidji, 185 miles north of Minneapolis because of inadequate healthcare received while incarcerated. 

“It’s been really hard, because it’s going on four years that I have not gotten any type of real justice for what happened to Hardel,” said Perry. A federal grand jury is currently investigating the case.

Activists also reiterated their fight solely addresses the importance of Black life but is not intended to discount the lives of others. 

“This is not White versus Black. This is not police versus community. This is about right versus wrong,” said Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence founder Toshira Garraway. “Every life that [was taken before George Floyd] was absolutely wrong. And all of the life that’s been stolen after that has been wrong.”

Henry Pan contributed to this story. Reach Pan at hpan@spokesman-recorder.com.

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