A year ago today, George Floyd was murdered at the hands of former police officer Derek Chauvin at the nondescript corner of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. His death would ignite a revolution. From Minneapolis to Melbourne, Australia, millions of people took to the streets to protest racial injustice and demand change. Their voices were heard, and it has forced individuals, companies, and governments to reckon with their choices and the systemic racism that has weaved its way into society.
Now, one year later, progress has been made. Cities across the U.S. have engaged in discussions on meaningful police reforms and enacted policies to reform unsafe practices like the use of chokeholds. Statues erected of leaders with racist pasts were removed not only in the U.S., but also in the UK. Organizations dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement have been created and expanded in Canada. The current Congress is the most racially diverse one in history, with 59 Black members.
Despite this forward movement, there is still much progress to be had. If you were to visit the intersection in Minneapolis today, a striking living memorial pays tribute to Floyd and the countless others who have died at the hands of law enforcement, among them Philando Castile and Daunte Wright, the latter of whom was killed just last month. Depending on your experience, the memorial can be a place of peace or pain.
To understand how it feels to have lived and worked at the epicenter of the George Floyd protests, Walgreens Stories spoke with team members from the nearby area to learn their fears, thoughts and dreams for a future that is truly free.
Gio King, assistant store manager, Minneapolis
“We've made it a long way from where we started, but we still have a long way to go. People were hurt, and it didn't have to be that way. What I worry about is if giving him a guilty verdict was just something they did to ease the tension or to calm us, because I feel like if things would have turned out differently with the verdict, we could have had a dramatically different outcome and probably more riots and protests. I think this was just the first step of many, and I'm hoping it is a positive thing and that they keep on going with the accountability of police officers. Not so much for reform, but rather to stop allowing them to get away with so much.
“I felt like the decision the court made was a step in the right direction to take away some of the power the police have. I'm the father of a Black boy. It definitely makes me feel a little nervous because I've had my own personal experiences that weren’t so positive. It gives me hope that my son may have a better future and an easier time.”
Allison Bowman, customer service associate, Minneapolis
“The way I feel on the one-year anniversary is still the same. You still have racism. The progress we’ve seen so far is a start, and we have to keep going. You can't stop protesting. It’s going to take time. Nothing’s going to happen overnight.
“For hope to set in, for me, will take a long, long time. It’s going to take more of us to stand up and say, ‘Stop the violence.’ It has to stop now, and it takes a village to do it. What I tell my children is that this is their world. I'm old. And this is for my grandbabies and their grandkids. It has to start now. Black Lives Matter needs to be out there more than it already was with George Floyd. There are still other cops who have to be held accountable for their actions.”
Yolanda Bass, shift lead, Minneapolis
“I’ve lived in Minnesota since I was 14. I’m 34 now. I’ve seen a tornado rip through this city, and nothing like this has made me as sad as what’s going on now. I felt really frustrated and angry because George Floyd was not somebody who was posing a threat. Even though this was caught on camera, we still had to fight to prove that it was an injustice. It made me uncomfortable to even be a Minneapolis resident, because if you can see the video and it is still up for debate, it makes people feel like they can get away with anything.
“I try to be hopeful, but I don't feel hopeful that Minneapolis will ever be the same as it used to be. We have businesses that won’t be returning. It feels like the police and governors and people who essentially work for us as taxpayers haven’t come up with new ways to approach these issues that we have as a community. I’m glad we got a guilty verdict, but it was by a longshot. I feel like as soon as we get some sense of normalcy, something else happens to remind us that we can’t get too comfortable. Do I hope things get better? Oh, yeah. I love Minneapolis. I really hope it does get better.”
Asha Stewart, store manager, New Hope, Minn.
“I currently live in Minneapolis. I've lived in the suburbs, and I feel safer in Minneapolis, which is weird to say. I live on a street that people would probably consider dangerous, but I feel safe. I know the community. I know most people, and my neighbors genuinely care about me. But no one cares about me in [New Hope], where I've been called the ‘N’ word more than I did in Minneapolis.
“I want us to continue to get the message out, and I want us to continue to speak up for each other and try to protect each other. I want people to be more aware, but it's hard. People are not self-aware. A lot of people need training on that – especially the police department. It’s hard being a cop. But it is not nearly as hard as it is being Black in America or in Minneapolis. They need to actually do community service in the communities that they're servicing. I would like to see them make more changes like this in the police department so they could get to know us. Then they won’t be as scared.
“I've met a lot of great people after the riots happened who cleaned the streets. I still see those people out here trying to help one year later, and it’s beautiful. George Floyd got justice so fast. I thought it would have been drawn out, but the sun is starting to come out. It was dark and gloomy here before, but I feel like good things are starting to roll now. I hope so.”