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Selasa, 25 Mei 2021

George Floyd died one year ago today. Did his murder have any lasting impact on America? - ABC News

The world seemed pretty big to little Gianna Floyd a year ago.

Her father George Floyd had suddenly left the small part of it that he shared with his daughter. 

Yet somehow, in death, he loomed larger over it than ever before.

"Say his name," millions shouted as they marched angrily through the streets of America's largest cities last June.

Murals sprang up in artistic honour on walls and pavements, always with those same doleful eyes.

The Black Lives Matter movement, formed years ago to protest against police brutality, rapidly took George Floyd's identity and image global.

In London, Paris and Sydney, when protestors weren't chanting his name they were down on bended knee, reflecting on his fate in silent reverie.

Around that time, Gianna Floyd became as well known as her father, in an Instagram video shared by millions.

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"Daddy changed the world, " a daughter beamed proudly, capturing the public impulse erupting from her father's murder.

Many agreed with her, including then Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

Later, as President, he'd stand in the White House, explaining to Americans that Gianna's "daddy did change the world."

"Let that be his legacy," Mr Biden said.

A black man stands in front of a mural of George Floyd
George Floyd was a 46-year-old security guard and former high school football star, who had three children.(

Reuters: Carlos Barria

)

A full year has passed since Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd to the roadway in what would become one of the most publicly viewed killings in decades.

Chauvin's life tumble came quickly after the nine minutes and 29 seconds he squeezed his knee to Mr Floyd's neck — fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, charged with murder, convicted and now facing up to 40 years in jail once sentenced.

An appeal is pending, but Chauvin cut a lonely figure in the Hennepin County Court when the jury handed down its guilty verdict.

The informal, pro-police, so-called 'Blue Lives Matter' movement has said barely a word since.

A civil lawsuit payout worth $45 million by City of Minneapolis confirmed that nobody possessed the will to even try to defend a killing as indefensible as this.

Americans remember George Floyd's impact a year on

In cities across the US, Americans rallied into the night to commemorate the year that had passed.

Two African American teen girls looking thoughtful
Young black Americans have held vigils and marches in memory of George Floyd, who was murdered by a policeman one year ago. (

Reuters: Kevin Mohatt 

)

Numbers were understandably lower, and those who did turn out were largely peaceful. 

Only in Minneapolis, at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue where George Floyd was killed, did fear shudder through anniversary vigils.

An unidentified gunman fired volleys of shots within metres of the 'George Floyd Square' memorial, sending media representatives and the public fleeing in fear.

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Gianna Floyd, her mother, uncles, a cousin and lawyers had perhaps set the tone for calm reflection elsewhere, by travelling to Washington DC for measured advocacy rather than activism.

"Change the world," the seven-year-old said quietly on the White House lawns.

Her uncle, Philonise Floyd said of his brother, George: "Today is the day that he set the world in a rage and people realised what's going on in America, and we all said enough is enough."

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Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 48 seconds
George Floyd's family speaks after meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Mr Biden had invited them to the White House so he could offer moral support.

He also hoped they'd provide momentum for the omnibus George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, the Federal Government's model answer on much that's still wrong with the way law enforcement works in communities of colour.

The President could do no more than offer counsel and encouragement though.

As is the way in Washington, the bill has hit a snag in the Senate on a legal question of limiting the amount of immunity police operate under when going about their work.

Biden doesn't get to sign it until a compromise is reached, but says he's "optimistic" negotiators will strike a deal soon.

Nancy Pelosi is hugged by Philonese Floyd, surrounded by other family members.
Nancy Pelosi spoke with Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, during a meeting at the Capitol in Washington. (

AP: Bill Clark

)

The rest of the package is mostly uncontroversial and is presented as a template for states to copy: Banning or limiting choke-hold restraints, expanding the use of body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras and maintaining better records on the use of excessive and lethal force.

Somehow, the counting of numbers on the George Floyd Act has become a kind of test on whether America's made good on the social contract on race relations that so many seemed to demand in the Black Lives Matter protests last year. 

If only it was that simple.

"As far as lasting change, I would say no," says Professor Thaddeus Johnson on America's progress so far.

A former police officer in Memphis, Tennessee,  he is these days a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University who still holds an appreciation for the tough decisions cops on the frontline are forced to make, often in violent situations.

"You have these high-profile events, and city governments, local government, federal governments will start making moves that look good and sound good, but once that momentum has ended you don't hear much of it anymore," he said. 

Beyond banning certain types of restraint holds officers can deploy on suspects — which he describes as "low hanging fruit" — Mr Johnson is sceptical that George Floyd's death will change much.

A young Black man with long braids holds a sign reading 'I am a man' near the Lincoln Memorial
Many protesters brought back the same signs they carried last year in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd's death to remember him one year on. (

Reuters: Andrew Kelly

)

The more interesting changes he thinks might relieve pressure are typically found in local experiments.

Some cities, soon to include Minneapolis, are joining a trend towards removing police from "enforcement-heavy" activities like traffic stops for expired registration tags or seatbelt offences.

Those tasks are instead being handed to civilian inspectors, usually unarmed.

Professor Johnson's drawn towards data in one state, showing that using officers a little more selectively can work to lower unnecessary force.

"In North Carolina they cut down highly discretionary traffic stops and started focusing more on speeding and running red lights," he says. 

"They found they reduced crime and we also found some benefits for [reduced] use of force."

A violent year

None of the demands for law reform will make much of a difference if America only ever becomes a more dangerous place and 2021 is not shaping up a kind one on that score.

University of Colorado police shooting
Violent crime has risen over the last year in the United States. (

AP/Paul Aiken/Daily Camera

)

Overall violent crime, regardless of race, has risen over the last 12 months and over the first five months of this year.

As with all statistics, there are many factors at play, including increased gun ownership throughout the pandemic.

The city of Minneapolis is feeling the pressure keenly, recording 27 homicides so far in 2021 and a higher rate of violence-related injuries to children struck in gunfire exchanges.

The figures can't be attributed to any change in the intensity of policing operations since George Floyd's death, but critics are gradually drawing such links.

Demands to '"de-fund the police" are these days at the margins of public debate across the cities and states responsible for funding most of them.

Whatever the complex causes of America's latest crime spree, the ground is fertile for popular — or populist — law and order campaigns to start anew, with demands for more police to bring it under control.

Of all the legacies of George Floyd's murder by police, that would be among the least expected by most who took to the streets in his name this time last year.

A black woman holds her arms around a little black girl with red ribbons in her hair in front of a mural of George Floyd
The killing of George Floyd reignited longstanding anger at police brutality in the US and triggered a global movement against racism.(

Reuters: Callaghan O'Hare

)

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2021-05-26 02:17:30Z
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