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This week marks one year since George Floyd, an unarmed Black man was killed by then police officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd for nearly nine minutes. His death, recorded on video by a bystander, sparked widespread protests globally, and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and conversations around race. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro joins to reflect on the past year.
This week marks the one year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.
The incident, captured on cell phone video, surveillance cameras and police bodycams, led to a jury conviction last month on counts of second-degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Sentencing is scheduled for June.
NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro, joined me to reflect on the past year.
Fred, you've lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for decades now. Besides the pandemic, how has this last year been different after the death of George Floyd?
Fred de Sam Lazaro:
It's like nothing we've witnessed here, Hari, or more accurately, nothing we felt, because it's really palpable out there. And at this juncture, there is a real sense of severe exhaustion.
And what about the trial for Derek Chauvin and now the trial for other officers? Does this just kind of keep this at the surface?
It's been a very anguished time. There was a brief reprieve that came with the verdict that convicted Derek Chauvin. But then we go back and relive a lot of this with a federal trial of the four officers, with the state trial of the four officers that comes later, the trial as well, cranking up with the killing of Daunte Wright. And witnessing all of this amidst a crime spike and in November, we will also see a ballot initiative that will ask voters in Minneapolis if they want to enable the dismantling of the police department.
What will be on the ballot, what is being proposed?
The constitution of the city of Minneapolis requires a certain level of staffing in the police department. That will be removed if voters approve it. Well, in real life terms, just through attrition and departures, it's down a third of its 880 officers. And so the resources that it does have are very thinly spread amidst this crime spike.
Now, critics will say that those are two completely different things. The crime spike is happening no matter what. And in the understaffing, it's a separate issue of the police department, but in voters' minds, obviously, this is something that is keenly associated. And so the chances of the ballot initiatives being approved, I would say, are not great based on the experts that I've talked to about this. And one more thing about the dismantling of the police, the substantial change that would be needed if you wanted to shift a police culture has to come from the state legislature.
And the state legislature is a completely different animal than the city council of Minneapolis. You have a lot of rural Democrats and especially Republicans who are very closely allied with the police in general and the police unions in particular.
Have there been any structural changes in this past year that people can point to?
I think you'll hear the city argue that it's taken some steps. They've banned chokeholds, for example. They've done things at that level. They are just now talking about eliminating traffic stops that inordinately target minority drivers, for example. You're seeing an increase in funding for an Office of Violence Prevention at the city, which is working to prevent some of this violence spike that we're seeing, especially in the north side, the predominantly Black north side of Minneapolis. So there are changes there. But the fundamental shift in policing culture that protects officers, if you're going to change that system, you're going to have to go to the state legislature.
How are people there planning to mark this anniversary?
The aftermath of George Floyd's killing has seen an explosion of artistic expression. There are murals and extraordinary artwork everywhere you go. And I think it's healing for a lot of people. So that is something that is really quite noteworthy. And there will be observances that Walker Art Center, for example, the very famous art center in Minneapolis, is free to the public on Sunday. So you're going to have a lot of that kind of observance and I dare say, a celebration.
Fred de Sam Lazaro, joining us from Minneapolis. Thanks so much.
My pleasure, Hari.
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