May 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

"Still can't breathe": George Floyd remembered on 2-year anniversary of his murder

Photo of a white gravestone with George Floyd's name and the image of a fist engraved on it
A view of the George Floyd headstone at the Say Their Names cemetery at George Floyd Square on May 25 in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

People across the U.S. honored George Floyd on Wednesday amid mixed progress on police reform and two years after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes as he said "I can't breathe" over 20 times.

Why it matters: Floyd's murder ignited protests against police brutality and anti-Blackness around the globe. Yet two years later, many Black Americans feel the world has moved on, even as Black communities remain vulnerable to deadly violence.

State of play: Despite nationwide attention on the issue, 2021 was a record year for police killings. Momentum dwindled after Congress failed to reach a bipartisan agreement on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

  • Black people are 2.9 times more likely to be killed by police than white people in the U.S., according to the Mapping Police Violence tracker, a project by the police reform nonprofit Campaign Zero.
  • Only 1% of police killings in 2021 led to charges.

What they're saying: "2 years later & Black people still can’t breathe," civil rights lawyer Ben Crump tweeted.

  • "Before his name became a hashtag, #GeorgeFloyd was a human being who mattered. A brother, a father, a friend. A person. I'm praying for his family today," said activist Bernice King, the daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr.
  • "This crime is part of a system that haunts Black America to this day," Symone Sanders, a former senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, said on her MSNBC show this week.
  • "His killing stays with us all to this day, especially those who loved him," former President Barack Obama tweeted.
  • The "fundamental turning point" raised by his death remains unrealized, Melvin Carter, the first Black mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, told Sanders on her show.
  • "George Floyd’s brutal death sparked an unprecedented outpouring of outrage and pledges for change worldwide, & we CANNOT stop fighting now," Crump added on Twitter. "We must continue to make our voices heard. Our lives depend on it."

The big picture: The anniversary comes two weeks after an alleged shooter targeted a Black neighborhood and killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York.

  • President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that establishes a national database of police misconduct and bans chokeholds unless "deadly force is authorized."
  • The order does not address the neck-to-knee restraint that former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin used on Floyd.
  • Biden called it "a measure of what we can do together to address the profound fear, trauma and exhaustion that African Americans have endured for generations." He added that he will make sure Floyd's legacy lives on.
Photo of murals and flowers surrounding a square
A view of the site where George Floyd was killed at the memorial now known as George Floyd Square on May 25 in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images
Photo of posters that depict George Floyd taped on a green wall
Posters of George Floyd as a young man decorate a construction wall on May 22 on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, ahead of the two-year anniversary of his death. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo of a young Black girl looking down as people crowd behind her
President Biden holds the shoulder of Gianna Floyd, George Floyd's daughter, as she sits at the desk where Biden signed an executive order to revise use-of-force policies for federal law enforcement at the White House on May 25. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo of people kneeling and raising their fists in the air as they hold Black Lives Matter signs
Stand Up To Racism organizes a vigil at the U.S. Embassy in London to mark the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd on May 25 in London. Photo: Guy Smallman via Getty Images
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