Rallies in Minneapolis and across the country remember George Floyd
The family of Daunte Wright gathers on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's death, Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Minneapolis. Wright was fatally shot earlier this year by a Minneapolis police officer. | Christian Monterrosa/AP

MINNEAPOLIS  — A family-friendly street festival, musical performances, and moments of silence were held Tuesday to honor George Floyd and mark the year since he died at the hands of Minneapolis police, a death captured on wrenching bystander video that galvanized the racial justice movement and continues to bring calls for change. As the events unfolded across the country the Floyd family met with President Biden at the White House.

Floyd’s sister Bridgett and other family members held a moment of silence at a “Celebration of Life” event at a downtown Minneapolis park that included music, food trucks, an inflatable bouncy house, and a vaccination stand. A few miles away, at the site of the intersection where Floyd died, dozens of people kneeled around a steel fist sculpture for several minutes — symbolizing the 9 minutes, 29 seconds during which Floyd was pinned down.

“It’s been a troubling year, a long year,” Bridgett Floyd told the crowd downtown. “But we made it. … The love is here. George is here.”

The first anniversary of George Floyd’s death was supposed to be a milestone moment in Washington, a time to mark the passage of a policing law to make criminal justice more just. Instead, Floyd’s family met with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House on Tuesday to commemorate their loss and continue to push for legislation.

“It was a remembrance of what happened to my brother,” Philonise Floyd said of the meeting with Biden, calling the president “a genuine guy.”

Biden told them “he just wants the bill to be meaningful and that it holds George’s legacy intact,” said George Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams. Williams said Biden showed “genuine concern” for how the family is doing.

Biden took time during the meeting to play with George Floyd’s young daughter Gianna, who enjoyed some ice cream and Cheetos, the president said, after she told him she was hungry.

Later, she stood before the cameras outside the White House and softly called out, “say his name.” Family members chanted in return, “George Floyd.”

A moment of silence to honor Floyd was also held in New York and a rally was held in Los Angeles. Globally, a rally took place in Germany and Floyd’s death was marked by U.S. embassies in Greece and Spain.

The square was transformed Tuesday into an outdoor festival, with food, children’s activities, and music. At times, people danced in the street. Artwork and signs from protests after Floyd’s death also were on display. One group hosted an open mic next to a greenhouse that community members constructed earlier this year to house flowers left by mourners. Nearby, a brass band played for passersby.

The celebration also included a candlelight vigil, capping several days of marches, rallies, and panel discussions about his death and confronting racial discrimination.

Xavier Simmons, 24, from Racine, Wisconsin, chanted “Say his name!” as people kneeled. Simmons said he hopes people taking part in the festivities will both honor Floyd’s life and legacy and continue to “uplift and empower this movement.”

“We got the verdict that we needed, but it’s never going to change until we make a change,” he said.

“Y’all keep doing the work because ya’ll changing the world,” Common, an award-winning rapper, actor, and activist told the crowd of hundreds during a musical performance Tuesday night prior to the vigil.

After Common left the stage and day turned to night in George Floyd Square, people placed candles in every conceivable corner, lighting up the area.

Floyd, 46, who was Black, died May 25, 2020, after then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.

Earl Vaughn, 20, of Minneapolis, attended the downtown event and said despite its celebratory atmosphere: “For all this, a Black man had to die, so that’s really unfortunate.”

In New York City, elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in kneeling for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. “As we took a knee, imagine how long that was on a human being’s neck,” Sharpton said. “Never switched knees, just dug in. It’s time we correct policing in this country.”

On Tuesday evening, activists and demonstrators gathered with some families of people who had died in interactions with the New York Police Department at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They called for defunding the police, holding officers accountable, and removing police officers from schools. Following the rally, they set off on a march through Brooklyn streets.

Floyd’s brother Philonise told CNN 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.”

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Kristen Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights, the first Black woman to hold the position. In the last few weeks, the Justice Department under Biden has announced sweeping investigations into the police in Minneapolis and Louisville and brought federal civil rights charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death.

Separately, the Floyd family announced the launch of a fund that will make grants to businesses and community organizations in the neighborhood, as well as broader grants “encouraging the success and growth of Black citizens and community harmony.” The money comes from $500,000 earmarked as part of the city’s $27 million civil settlement for the Floyd family.