George Floyd death anniversary: Reckoning with police violence in limbo
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By AARON MORRISON and STEVE KARNOWSKI
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and the fervent protests that erupted around the world in response, looked to many observers like the catalyst needed for a nationwide reckoning on racism in policing.
For more than nine minutes, a white officer pressed his knee to the neck of Floyd, a Black man, who gasped, "I can't breathe," echoing Eric Garner's last words in 2014. Video footage of Floyd's May 25, 2020, murder was so agonizing to watch that demands for change came from across the country.
But in the midst of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty and a divisive U.S. presidential election, 2020 ended without the kind of major police reforms that many hoped, and others feared, would come. Then, 2021 and 2022 also failed to yield much progress.
Now, three years to the day since Floyd's murder, proponents of federal actions - such as banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, as well as changing the so- called qualified immunity protections for law enforcement - still await signs of change.
"When people casually, and I think too frequently, say that there is some sort of racial reckoning that we're in the midst of, I see no evidence of that," Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, said during a recent press conference convened by a Black Lives Matter collective.
To be clear, racial justice activists and their champions in elected office haven't slowed down. But the beating death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers in early January underscored yet again just how long it's taking to achieve meaningful change.
"I don't play with words like 'reckoning,'" Pressley said. "That needs to be something of epic proportion. And we certainly have not seen a response to the lynching, the choking, the brutality, (and) the murder of Black lives."
SINCE 2020, WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN MINNEAPOLIS?
Soon after Floyd's murder, Minneapolis adopted a number of changes, including bans on chokeholds and neck restraints, and requirements that police try to stop fellow officers from using improper force. Minnesota lawmakers approved statewide police accountability packages in 2020 and in 2021, as well as tight restrictions on no-knock warrants just this month.
The city is still awaiting the results of a federal investigation into whether its police have engaged in a ''pattern or practice" of unconstitutional or unlawful policing. A similar investigation by the state Department of Human Rights led to what it called a "court-enforceable settlement agreement" in March to revamp policing in the city.
The federal investigation could lead to a similar but separate agreement with the city called a consent decree. Police in several other cities already operate under such oversight for civil rights violations.
Activists say that Minneapolis has started to make critical changes, but that the work necessary to transform policing must continue.
WHAT EVENTS ARE HAPPENING IN THE CITY THIS WEEK?
Activists plan to mark the anniversary in Minneapolis with a candlelight vigil Thursday night at George Floyd Square, the corner where Floyd died. A festival at the square Saturday will celebrate change in Minneapolis.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OFFICERS?
Chauvin also pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge, admitting that
keeping his knee on Floyd's neck resulted in his death. In that case, he
received a concurrent sentence of 21 years. The three others were also convicted
of violating Floyd's rights and got much shorter sentences.
By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023