Documentary 'George Floyd: A Year Later' Reflects On The Racial Justice Movement
Speaker 1: 00:00 On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd took his last labored breaths while Minneapolis police officer Derek Shovan knelt on his neck. What happened that night? Reverberated around the world. One year later, we reflect on how George Floyd's murder galvanized a racial justice movement in Minnesota. That was years in the making here's independent journalist, Georgia Fort with a look at what progress has been made since then Speaker 2: 00:27 On the evening of May 25th, 20, 20, 46 year old, George Floyd went to Cub foods, a neighborhood convenience store at the corner of 38th and Chicago. He went into buy some cigarettes. It was a beautiful spring evening, sunny and warm, but not yet hot and humid. Floyd laughed and joked with folks in the store. He talks sports with the clerk 19 year old, Christopher Martin, after paying for his cigarettes. Floyd bounced out of the store, light on his feet and got into a car parked out front. Martin noticed the $20 bill Floyd used had a strange bluish tint to it and suspected it was fake cup foods had a policy that if they found counterfeit bills in the cash register, clerks would have to pay for it out of their own pockets. After asking a manager what to do, Martin went out to the parking lot to ask Floyd to come back in the store, but Floyd was sound asleep. That's when the cops were called 17 year old Darnella Frazier was walking to the store with her knees and saw the cops with Floyd on the ground. She sent her niece ahead into the store and pulled out her phone to record what was happening. Got Speaker 3: 01:42 Him down, man, that didn't breed leads. Man. I been trying to get a phone Speaker 2: 01:52 Frasier. The entire world was able to watch what happened. Wow. They saw Floyd lying face down with his hands, cuffed behind his back. They saw Minneapolis police officer Derek. Shovan pressing his knee into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, almost casually with his hands in his pockets, Speaker 4: 02:17 Get up and get it. Speaker 2: 02:19 It's just, Floyd's initial cries of distress saying he couldn't breathe. He was in pain. And at one point, even calling out for his dead mother all eventually went silent. The brutality, we of the video unearth layers of trauma, anger, and despair that had been building for years in the days that followed protests erupted in Minneapolis, across the nation and across the world. Ultimately jury would find officer Derek Shovan guilty of murder and many pronounced the verdict, a significant win for police accountability. But how much has really changed here in Minnesota? George Floyd's death was just the latest in a series of high profile, fatal encounters for black men with police back in November of 2015, 24 year old Jamar Clark was shot by Minneapolis police. He died the next day within hours, protestors gathered at the fourth precinct. The protest turned into an 18 day occupation continuing right through Thanksgiving and into early December civil rights attorney and the chemo levee Armstrong, who was at the time president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP was there. And Speaker 5: 03:56 I believe that that has marked a turning point in Minnesota history because it taught us we can withstand the blizzards. We can withstand aggressive police down white supremacy, and we can stand up for the life of a young black man who deserved to be alive and to continue to fulfill his purpose upon this earth. Speaker 2: 04:17 Despite the occupation, neither officer was charged and demands for police. Accountability grew a year and a half later on July six, 2017 elementary school cafeteria worker Philando Castille was pulled over near the state fairgrounds, his girlfriend, diamond Reynolds and her four year old daughter were both in the car. We got Speaker 3: 04:39 Pulled over for a busted tail light in the back he's he's covered. He like killed my friend. He's licensed, he's carried, he's licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket. And he let the officer know that he was re he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet. And the officer just shot him in his arm. We're waiting for a bed. I will, sir. No worries. Speaker 2: 05:07 The Ramsey county attorney charged officer Yurana Mo Yunez was second degree manslaughter in two felony counts for dangerous discharge of a firearm is believed to be the first time in Minnesota's history. A police officer was criminally charged for a shooting that happened while on duty, but the jury acquainted Yunez on all counts demands for police. Accountability grew louder Speaker 6: 05:33 To the emergency. Hi, I can Speaker 2: 05:37 Hear just a month later on July 15, 2017, Justine reus check was shot by Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Knorr. She died 20 minutes later, unlike Jamar Clark and Philando Castille reus check was white. And the cop who shot her with Somali, despite a lack of any footage of the event nor was found guilty of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. He was the first police officer in Minnesota history to be found guilty of murder for an on-duty death. And only the fourth in the nation reus check's death was the beginning of an awakening for Minnesotans that the judicial system can produce accountability. When the victim is white demands for equal police, accountability grew stronger Speaker 4: 06:28 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 06:28 So when George Floyd cried out for help and that long agonizing video with Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck, the community shifted quickly from horror and helplessness to anger outrage. Speaker 5: 06:44 I think about George Floyd, he holiday, he, he said, mommy, 11 times Kimberly, Speaker 2: 06:49 The Jones, his son was shot by police in 2017. The officers who shot him were never charged. She now supports other mothers whose children were killed by police. Speaker 5: 06:59 My son called me on the phone minutes before they killed them. And he said, mama. So that just really it, uh, it shifted my fight. It shifted my words. You know, it's always close to home, but I felt like at that very moment, it was in my home. And you know, I always talk to mothers and they say, well, right now the focus is, is George Floyd. And I said, well, if George Floyd is going to be the blessing that opens up the flood gates of justice, I'm in, I'm all for it. But I always remind them that George Floyd is the face of thousands that have went on before him Speaker 2: 07:39 Having already experienced the deaths of Jomar Clark, Philando Casteel. And so many others. The racial justice movement was better organized and better prepared than ever before to respond to the death of George Floyd may and early June of 2020 thousands took to the streets in the twin cities to process their grief and demand change. The Corona virus had already taken hold in Minnesota, but organizers kept people massed up and hydrated. When darkness fell, there was also vandalism arson and looting. Dozens of buildings burned, including the third precinct. One person died. Governor Tim Walz called in 1500 members of the national guard, the largest deployment in state history at that time and protestors denounced the aggressive militarized response in the aftermath. Investigators would discover many of the fires were started by white people. Some of them from outside the twin cities, meanwhile, the site of George Floyd's death became a community gathering space residents like Marsha Howard worked together, renaming it, George Floyd square and turning it into a site for art mutual aid and protest were Speaker 7: 09:07 Residents. You were just sick and tired of being sick and tired and it's our neighborhood. So we're the ones that sweep the street. We feed people. We house the house list. Howard Speaker 2: 09:18 Is one of many activists who have made it their personal business to fight for change. In the years, since the death of Jomar Clark black community leaders, such as Jeremiah Ellison and Andrea Jenkins successfully ran for seats on the Minneapolis city council. And soon after George Floyd's death, nine members of the council called for defunding the police department. The proposed ballot question was ultimately blocked by the Minneapolis charter commission in July, 2020. Governor wall signed a new policing bill that banned choke holds. In most circumstances, critics said the bill was weak and a far cry from the kind of real reform that was needed. Meanwhile, tensions continued to grow between authorities and communities seeking change. In November, 2020, the Minneapolis police department arrested more than 600 protestors who had marched onto [inaudible]. Then in December Delilah, he was shot and killed by Minneapolis police. Just a mile away from where George Floyd took his last breath. Speaker 4: 10:36 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 10:37 The police then rated the home of his family. Guns drawn only after they finished searching the home. Did they inform them that their son had died hours earlier? Police say, ed shot first. And to date, no officers have been charged in the case. Demands for police, accountability grew tight. We thought Speaker 3: 10:59 They learned their lesson until they killed our brother and all that here in Minneapolis. And so that's why today and every day from today, we need to continue to demand for justice for George Floyd, for tomorrow Clark, for Philando Castillo and for the thousands of lives. Thousands of lives that many people don't know their names because it wasn't recorded because people didn't come out in this manner. Speaker 2: 11:27 Coming up the trial, a former police officer, Derek Shovan, you're listening to George Floyd a year later, I'm Georgia Ford. Speaker 8: 11:40 George Floyd a year later is a production of racial reckoning. The arc of justice, a journalism project created and supported by ampers diverse radio for Minnesota's communities in partnership with KML J radio, the Minnesota humanities, and with support from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund. Speaker 2: 12:02 You're listening to George Floyd a year later. I'm Georgia Fort, Speaker 9: 12:07 May it please the court ladies and gentlemen of the jury Speaker 2: 12:11 As the trial for former police officer Derek, Shovan got underway. Black Minnesotans were not just looking for justice for George Floyd. They were looking for signs that maybe just maybe Minnesota was capable of change. We need Speaker 4: 12:28 The system to know that we are watching. It's not just the twin cities. It's not just the state of Minnesota. It's not just the United States of America, but the whole entire world is watching this case. Speaker 2: 12:41 While the jury was still being selected. The city of Minneapolis announced a historic settlement with George Floyd's family for $27 million. Chris Dewar and attorney working with the Floyd family said the settlement set a precedent in how the justice system values black lives. Speaker 10: 12:58 The number today changes evaluations and civil rights for a black person when they die. Because what you don't know is the rigged game that we always have to play. When we take one of these cases, because African-Americans are not valued high when they are murdered by law enforcement. In these cases Speaker 2: 13:18 In comparison, diamond Reynolds' and Philando Castille's family received a total of 3.8 million in their civil settlement. Shamar Clark's family received just $200,000. The Derrick Shovan trial was broadcast live as witness after witness took the stand. It became clear. They'd been traumatized by George Floyd's death. Speaker 9: 13:39 Now look at George Floyd. I look at, I look at my dad, my brothers look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all plaque. I look at that and I look at how that could have been. One of them. It's been nights. I stayed up apologizing and apologizing for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. It's like, it's not what I should have done. It's what he should've done. He should've Speaker 2: 14:25 The Minneapolis police departments own chief Madeira AERA, Dondo, denounced Chauvin's actions. Speaker 9: 14:32 That is not a part of our policy. That is not what we teach. And that should be Chauvin's Speaker 2: 14:39 Defense attorney maintained that it was George Floyd's drug habit and poor health that killed him, not the knee on his neck. Before the lawyers could make their closing arguments. Another young unarmed black man died at the hands of Minnesota police on April 11th, just a few miles away in Brooklyn center. 20 year old, Dante Wright was out driving with his girlfriend. When he was pulled over by police. He immediately called his mother to let her know moments later. He was dead. Speaker 3: 15:15 He told him to get out of the car. He got out of the car and his girlfriend to get back in the car and he drove away, crashed. And now he's dead on the ground since one 47 new peoples tell us that he Speaker 2: 15:27 Thinks right death forced many to reckon with the reality that nothing had really changed since George Floyd's death. The previous spring, Speaker 11: 15:38 Here we are, oh, these people got us. Speaker 2: 15:42 And at that point, demands for police. Accountability became relentless. The governor deployed 3000 troops from the national guard twice. As many as what have been deployed after George Lloyd's death for nights on end protestors gathered at the Brooklyn center police department, protestors, journalists and medics were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bangs. Within days, Kim Potter, the officer who shot Dante, right, was charged with second degree manslaughter. But community leaders said it wasn't enough. Speaker 3: 16:19 What happened to Dante? Right? Wasn't an accident. What happened to Dante right? Was murder. We are tired of this justice system, a system that works for white people and a system that does not work for people Speaker 2: 16:33 Of color. However, Ben Crump, the attorney for George Floyd's family. And now Dante writes, family said the swift charge was significant. You're making Speaker 10: 16:42 Progress. And I want to encourage those protestors, those young people, those activists that you're making a difference in Minneapolis, Minnesota right here now is ground zero. For that chain Speaker 2: 17:04 Community activists continue to apply pressure with an increasingly unified voice Jelani Hussein, the head of the Minnesota chapter of the council on American Islamic relations and a devout Muslim stood side by side in solidarity with the chemo levy Armstrong, a devout Christian calling for police accountability and meaningful public safety reform on April 20th after deliberating for 10 hours, the jury found Derek Shovan guilty on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. [inaudible] Speaker 2: 17:43 Neighborhoods erupted in cheers and honking horns. For the first time in Minnesota, a white cop is being held accountable for the killing of a black man. The next day, the justice department announced a widespread federal investigation into the Minneapolis police department. The city of Brooklyn center announced a groundbreaking public safety resolution that would put policing under a new public health oriented department while certain efforts surged ahead, others lagged behind police reform bills at the state legislature were pushed back to a special session. Their fate still uncertain one year after George Floyd's death, the intersection where he died, remains close to traffic. The Minneapolis mayor has said the city plans to open it back up soon. In the meantime, it continues to be a gathering place for people to grieve, celebrate and reflect Dr. Joy Lewis is a community healer and author. She says it's been beautiful to see the community stepping up to take care of one another. Ain't Speaker 11: 18:51 No red cross coming for us when we are shot and killed by the police or by the state and a red cross coming for us. You know, people coming from vessels coming, they're sending in troops, it's going to be a war zone. They're closing down the grocery store. We become our own red cross. We create a healing environment for ourselves. That's what's happening. That's what the revolution is, is bringing this, bringing us back to you. Speaker 2: 19:19 The national spotlight on Minnesota over the past year has illuminated some painful truths. While Minnesota is widely considered a wealthy state with a great quality of life. It has one of the largest income gaps in the nation. Black families make on average, just half the income of white families, foundations and other institutions are now funneling millions of dollars into black owned businesses and nonprofits artists. Louie blaze says a fire has been lit. Speaker 5: 19:50 We need to see a new birth of a nation. And that is our nation. That's when we restore ourselves as a people, as a culture and get back to identity our history, right, and heal with one another while we invest more time and energy into ourselves and to our self care. And so I love, and so our healing and then it's our economical structure. I think the key is a unity. Like whatever we do, we need to do it together. Lays Speaker 2: 20:15 As part of a growing movement, advocating for community solutions and Minneapolis police department remains grossly understaffed and alternative public safety programs have yet to be put in place. Former officer Kim Potter goes on trial December 3rd, the state trial for the other officers involved in George Floyd's death has been pushed back to March, 2022. The justice department has indicted all four cops involved in George Floyd's death, but a date has yet to be set for trial. The federal of the Minneapolis police department is ongoing and demands for police accountability. Continue I'm independent journalist, Georgia Fort Speaker 8: 21:02 George Floyd a year later was written and produced by Georgia Fort and Marianne Combs with production assistance from justice Sanchez and Aaron Warhol. George Floyd a year later is a production of racial reckoning. The arc of justice, a journalism project created and supported by ampers diverse radio for Minnesota's communities in partnership with KLJ radio, the Minnesota humanities center, and with support from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund online at racial reckoning, M n.org.