‘Turning mourning into dancing’: Festival to remember George Floyd

Congress George Floyd (AP)
17:45pm, Tue 25 May 2021
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The Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd died was disrupted by gunfire, just hours before it was to be the site of a family-friendly street festival marking the anniversary of his death at the hands of police.

Associated Press video from 38th Street and Chicago Avenue — informally known as George Floyd Square — showed people running and seeking cover as shots rang out.

Police said one person later appeared at a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound, but it wasn’t immediately clear if that person was hurt in the incident near the intersection.

Philip Crowther, a reporter working for AP Global Media Services, which provides live video coverage to customers, reported hearing as many as 30 gunshots about a block east of the intersection.

Mr Crowther said a storefront window appeared to have been broken by a gunshot.

“Very quickly things got back to normal,” he said. “People here who spend a significant amount of time, the organisers, were running around asking, ‘Does anyone need a medic?’ It seems like there are no injuries.”

Police said they responded to a reports of gunfire at about 10.10am local time at the 3800 block of Elliot Avenue South.

Callers told police that a vehicle was seen speeding away from the area.

Soon after, someone went to nearby Abbott Northwestern Hospital with a gunshot wound. Police said it was not believed to be a life-threatening injury.

The intersection has been barricaded since soon after George Floyd’s death and quickly turned into a memorial — and also a challenging spot for the city, with police officers not always welcome.

On Tuesday the square was being transformed 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.”

Mr Floyd, 46, who was black, died on Memorial Day 2020 after then-officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about nine and a half minutes.

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.

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

Meanwhile, many members of George Floyd’s family visited Washington to mourn with president Joe Biden and prod Congress to act as they commemorated the loss of their brother, father and son one year ago.

Although his death sparked a global reckoning over racism and growing calls for police reform, a legislative response has been elusive. Still, congressional negotiators remain optimistic about the prospects for a bill, and say they have made progress toward an agreement this week.

It id a high-profile legislative fight where Biden has notably taken a back seat, preferring to leave the work of crafting a compromise to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, in contrast to his fevered advocacy, both public and private, for his infrastructure bill and the Covid-19 relief package.

The Floyd family has multiple opportunities to weigh in on the congressional efforts. In addition to their visit to the White House, the family was meeting with house speaker Nancy Pelosi and Karen Bass, the lead House negotiator on the policing bill, as well as key senators.

The Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump said he hoped Mr Biden would renew his support for policing reform named for George Floyd, which 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.”

George Floyd Transforming Justice (AP)

Mr Floyd’s brother Philonise, appearing alongside Mr 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 Mr Floyd’s death, often providing medical assistance to protesters who were shot or gassed in confrontations with police. He eventually founded an organisation, 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 is 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.”

George Floyd (AP)

The event was organised by the George Floyd Global Memorial. Angela Harrelson, an aunt of Mr Floyd’s and a member of the board of directors, said the organisation has stockpiled 3,000 items surrounding his 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 neighbourhood where he died, as well as broader grants “encouraging the success and growth of Black citizens and community harmony”.

The money comes from 500,000 dollars (£353,795) earmarked as part of the city’s 27-million-dollar (£19 million) civil settlement for the Floyd family earlier this year.

A crowd gathers next to the spot where George Floyd was murdered (AP)

The event at George Floyd Square was due to start at 1pm local time, the same time Governor Tim Walz asked Minnesotans to pause for a moment of silence to honour Mr Floyd.

He asked that the moment last for nine minutes, 29 seconds – the length of time that prosecutors say Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck.

Mr 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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