‘Justice for George Floyd’ petition sets record: 17 million names
Roxie Washington holds Gianna Floyd, the daughter of George Floyd as they attend the funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Houston. | David J. Phillip/AP

There are petitions, and there are petitions…and then there’s the petition by started by a 15-year-old Portland, Ore., girl, identified on Facebook as Kellen S., on change.org, demanding justice for George Floyd. Talk about a tsunami, and her petition is it.

Following Floyd’s burial June 9 in his hometown of Houston, the demand for justice for the 46-year-old African-American man, murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, has hit 17,223,456 names as of the morning of June 10, and counting.

That’s more than double the population of New York City and equivalent to one of every 19 people in the U.S., based on the latest Census Bureau estimates.

Kellen’s petition is in line with the millions of people who have hit the streets nationwide and abroad, demanding justice for Floyd, an end to routine police killings and repression of unarmed African-Americans, and an uprooting of systemic U.S. racism. More than two weeks after Floyd’s May 25 murder, the peaceful protests show no signs of stopping, only expanding.

“George was handcuffed and restrained and being completely cooperative when this all went down,” Kellen wrote in her petition on change.org, addressed to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and city DA Mike Freeman. “The officer put his knee on George’s neck choking him for minutes on minutes while George screamed that he could not breathe. Bystanders beg for the police officer to take his knee off George’s neck, but the officer didn’t listen and continued to choke him.”

“Not that it would matter at all, but George was not even wanted for a violent crime. A grocery store (said) that he was signing a bad check.” The story cops gave was that George used a counterfeit $20 bill.

Kellen’s initial petition demanded Frey fire the four officers and Freeman file charges. Frey did, while state Attorney General Keith Ellison took over the investigation and filed an upgraded charge of second-degree murder against Chauvin and initial charges of aiding and abetting that felony against the others.

And a separate petition demanding justice for Floyd on colorofchange.org reported some four million signatures, change.org leader Mary Dorozenski wrote, though Color of Change provided no petition figures on its website. But the Floyd petitioners weren’t done.

A second “Raise the degree” petition on change.org, from Allie M., demanding an upgrading of the initial third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, drew 3.028 million names before its organizers—and the website—declared “Victory!” after Ellison acted.

Needless to say, the response absolutely floored and delighted Dorozenski.

“After video surfaced of George Floyd’s murder surfaced, your signature joined with millions of others, and people taking action on the ground, to let Minneapolis know that the world was watching,” she wrote, recapping developments – including the tougher indictments and the demonstrations – since Kellen started her petition. “While Kellen, who started the petition, sees a long road ahead, these are significant steps forward on the journey to justice.”

Dorozenski reported Kellen told a National Geographic interviewer that she thought the idea of “people her age” becoming leaders in times of upheaval was “a daunting challenge.”

“Her age was actually the asset,” Dorozenski commented. “She recognized that social media would be the most effective tool to reach teens and spread awareness about police brutality and racism. Now, she has become a sterling example of how young leadership can foment and foster change.”

Kellen’s petition is still gathering names. The goal is now to garner 18 million. Meanwhile, there’s another one making the rounds, by Loralei HoJay, a worker at a non-profit group in Fort Lee, N.J., that campaigns for justice for victims of police discrimination and brutality.

HoJay demands Kentucky officials investigate and prosecute the Louisville police officers who murdered African-American EMT Leonna Taylor, 26, shooting eight bullets into her as she slept, in a no-knock drug raid on the wrong address, her house. HoJay’s petition has 5,936,750 names as of 11 am Eastern Time on June 9.

There are other petitions concerning other police killings of unarmed African-Americans posted on change.org’s site, including one where police shot a Kansas City, Mo., man in the back—in his own back yard.

There was one more petition concerning Floyd though, and the required response will be interesting: Straight to Trump on the White House’s petition website.

That petition, with no author because none is required, demands the Oval Office occupant act for justice for Floyd, something Trump refuses to do. It’s drawn 424,610 signatures. Any petition to the White House that gets at least 100,000 signatures within three weeks of filing requires some sort of response. What that response will be—or if there is one—after June 28, will be interesting.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.