The Murder of George Floyd Two Years Later: BLM Protests, Court Cases, and Police Reform

It has been two years since Minneapolis police handcuffed George Floyd’s hands behind his back, pinned him face down in the street and suffocated him.

Floyd, 46, was being arrested on suspicion of trying to swipe a counterfeit bill at a neighborhood convenience store. On May 25, 2020, a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine and a half minutes, cutting off oxygen to his brain as he yelled “I can’t breathe.”

Caught on video by a bystander, the incident sparked worldwide protests of hundreds of thousands of people that rocked politics in the United States and helped bring Joe Biden to the presidency of the United States.

Standing alongside members of Floyd’s family, Biden plans to sign an executive order at the White House on Wednesday adopting new standards for law enforcement. But rights advocates say little has changed in the way police interact with black communities in the US.

“For the two-year anniversary, it is sadly disappointing and not at all something that corresponds to the memory of George Floyd,” Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter grassroots organizer, told Al Jazeera. “We expected something much more courageous.”

Amid continued calls for justice and change, here is a summary of what has happened in the two years since Floyd’s death:

the officers

Derek Chauvin, the officer who strangled Floyd to death, was convicted by a jury in Minnesota state court of manslaughter and manslaughter. He was sentenced in June 2021 by the investigating judge to 22 and a half years in prison.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is seeking to have his conviction reversed. Chauvin, 46, appealed his murder conviction, arguing that the jury was intimidated by the protests and harmed by pre-trial publicity.

Chauvin pleaded guilty in December 2021 to federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights, avoiding a possible life sentence if convicted at trial. In February, a jury in federal court found the three other former Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest and death guilty of violating his civil rights.

He was one of three officers charged with aiding a

Former Minnesota Police Officer Thomas Lane poses in a combination of booking photos at the Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis

Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were found guilty of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care when Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck even after Floyd had stopped moving or breathing.

Former Minneapolis police officers J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao.

Lane pleaded guilty to one state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s murder. He faces up to three years in prison. Kueng and Thao are scheduled to go on trial in state court next month.

All four had been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department the day after Floyd’s murder.

court settlements

In July 2020, Floyd’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and the four officers, alleging that their civil rights were violated and that the police had used excessive force.

Nine months later, the city council agreed to a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family, setting aside $500,000 to improve the business district where he was killed.

“That the largest pretrial settlement in a wrongful death case is for the life of a Black man sends a powerful message that Black lives matter and that police brutality against people of color must end.” Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement at the time.

Ben Crump, center, the civil rights attorney, represented the family of George Floyd.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 29: Attorney Ben Crump (L)

Attorney Ben Crump counts down to 8 minutes, as he kneels for 8 minutes and 46 seconds with family members of George Floyd and Al Sharpton.

Over 10 years, US cities have paid $3 billion to settle wrongful death and civil rights abuse lawsuits, according to 2021 data analysis by FiveThirtyEight.com and the Marshall Project.

Experts believe these settlements are indicative of a larger unanswered problem because many victims of police abuse are unable to sue. The judicial principle of “qualified immunity” prevents many agents from being held accountable in court.

reform measures

The police reform legislation, titled the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in March 2021 on a largely partisan vote.

The legislation aimed to overhaul police-community relations by establishing national operating standards for police departments, mandatory data collection on police encounters, and reprogramming funds for community programs. It would have opened the door to more federal prosecutions for excessive use of force by police.

Sen. Tim Scott, a right-wing Republican, and Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, were unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on police reform legislation.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 23: People march at the inau

People march at the inaugural commemoration rally and march organized by the George Floyd Global Memorial, commemorating the first anniversary of his death, outside the Hennepin County Government Center in May 2021.

But negotiations in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans fell short as Republicans refused to consider key demands such as an end to “qualified immunity.”

The failure of Congress to produce reform legislation has left President Joe Biden with the option of issuing a presidential executive order that is expected to adopt stricter standards for the use of force by federal law enforcement and establish databases to track police misconduct.

“We don’t know if we are at a real turning point, a turning point, that remains to be seen,” Arthur Ago, director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, told Al Jazeera.

But, “the administration’s continued engagement in DC affairs shows they haven’t given up on changing the way policing is done in this country.”

Meanwhile, advocates for reform have made strides at the state and local levels by pushing through more than 140 accountability and reform bills, according to a New York Times analysis of data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. in 2021.

Bills restricting or banning the use of neck restraints like the one that killed Floyd have been passed in 16 states. Ten states have passed laws requiring police to wear body cameras and five restricted warrants.

“Locally, there have been some really big changes,” Ago said.

BLM movement

Black Lives Matter, founded in 2013 and now based in Oakland, California, has evolved from a hashtag to a global network that is building a new long-term organizational structure.

The BLM foundation collected $79 million in revenue after Floyd’s death in the 12-month period from June 2020 to June 2021 and had $42 million in assets, according to its IRS Form 990 posted on its website.

The George Floyd Memorial barricades itself June 3,

The George Floyd Memorial, when he was barricaded.

“The protests now will look different because we have gone back to our jobs and we have gone back to school,” Abdullah said. “We’re still here. We’re still on the ground. We’re still working.”

In Minneapolis, an investigation by a Minnesota state human rights commission documented a pattern of racism in the Minneapolis Police Department. The US Department of Justice has also opened an investigation of “patterns and practices” in the department. Both investigations are likely to lead to court orders requiring Minneapolis to adopt changes.

Meanwhile, the killings of black men by police continue.

In February in Minneapolis, Amir Locke was shot to death within seconds by a SWAT team executing a no-knock search warrant. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, in April, Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of the head at close range after a traffic stop gone wrong.

“Two years after the murder of George Floyd, police violence is the norm and police killings are on the rise,” the Black Lives Matter foundation said in April when Lyoya was killed.

Locke and Lyoya are the latest examples of continuing tragedy. The year 2021 was one of the deadliest on record with 1,136 people killed by police in the US, according to Policeviolencereport.org, which independently tracks data.

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