NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — May 25, 2021, marks one year since the world watched in horror, as George Floyd died while a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Floyd’s death led to a reckoning on systemic racism and police brutality, sparking months of protests not just in the U.S. but worldwide.
The family of George Floyd met with President Joe Biden at the White House as the president calls on Congress to take action on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
In Connecticut, there were a number of marches. One of the many held in New Haven last June brought thousands into the streets, calling for change. Many were held in Hartford and in other towns and cities all over Connecticut.
Activists and advocates for radical justice say this somber anniversary is a moment of reflection.
On Tuesday in Avon, students lead a March for Change.
Students, parents, people in the Avon community and surrounding towns gathered to remember George Floyd and make a change in his name. Looking back over the year, students say change has been made, but more can be done.
Meimouna Thioune, an Avon student, told News 8, “We have seen some legislative change, the use of excessive force, not being able to put anybody in a chokehold, not being able to kneel on someone’s neck, but we haven’t really seen any community-wide change.”
Students at Avon High School say there is still a lot to be done. So they marched from the public library to the high school, where the media was denied entrance by the principal. Students say, they want to stop the small racial digs between classmates, that really aren’t small at all.
Maddi Dwyer, another Avon student explained, “It’s little things like writing down your ZIP code and somebody coming up to you and saying ‘you know that is not the Hartford ZIP Code,’ or ‘put your apartment down.’”
And students say they hope to make change one student at a time, one parent at a time in Avon.
Sam Hoefer, another Avon student said, “Connecticut in some areas is predominantly white and in those wealthier areas they still foster…an unwelcome environment for people of color.”
They say by changing what goes on inside their school, they can make a change larger change in their community.
“It’s providing teachers of color a more inclusive curriculum, giving people more cultural understanding and perspective of others’ lives, especially brown and Black lives,” another student told us.
“Address the use of slurs more than what we do now, as well as stop teaching a whitewashed version of history,” Meimouna added.
Caitlin Garcia-Stevenson, another Avon student, said, “Avon as like a majority white community often times the public is implicit and doesn’t know the experiences of what people of color go through on a day-to-day basis.”
And Students say, this is just the beginning. This is just one year, the change they have made in one year they hope to double or even triple in the next year.
And in nearby Derby, candlelight vigil was held on the Green Tuesday night.
Organizers we spoke with say it’s all about honoring the life of George Floyd. Attendees locked arms, lit candles, and lifted their thoughts of remembrance in honor of Floyd.
Those at the green say one year later the work continues to mobilize and continue conversations around policing, racial injustice, and an equitable path forward.
For the Valley NAACP President Greg Johnson, the work is far from over.
“Even though it was a year ago with George Floyd, we continue to see minorities dying at the hand of police brutality and I’d never be one to stand here and say ‘all police are bad’ because all police are not bad. But those who are not representing their shield properly we need to tear down the blue wall and hold them accountable.”
Maya Angelou Spruill, Valley Chapter NAACP Member said, “We need to talk about the fact that he’s a father and that his daughter can’t see her dad.”
Mayor Richard Dziekan (R – Ansonia) said, “Here we are now and we need to come together. I don’t want you scared, I don’t want your son scared of the police…We can’t go on like this.”
For Ansonia Police Chief Andrew Cota, Floyd’s death was a shifting moment.
“For me, it was eye-opening to say ‘wow, people will see this and there is no justification for it as a police officer, as a father as a human,'” he said.
Hoping for equitable change across the board while remembering a man who ultimately should be alive today.
“This is a small step forward for progress. Hoping we continue to mobilize everyone in the community, especially in The Valley where police can be held accountable.”
In the Valley, NAACP Chapter President Johnson says he’s encouraging people to get involved in the activism work needed to push the needle forward while continuing conversations on a new vision for community policing.
Former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on one manslaughter and two murder charges in April 2021 for the death of Floyd.
Floyd’s death became a catalyst for conversations on race and policing not just across the country, but here in Connecticut.
Last year, Connecticut lawmakers passed a police accountability law that bans police chokeholds and mandates police body cameras.
Governor Ned Lamont tweeted Tuesday morning about Floyd’s murder.
He said, in part, “It forced all Americans to look at ourselves and our communities, do the hard work of reflecting, and work toward creating a more just society, together. We must continue to improve.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker also took to Twitter to remember the day and reflect on the year of change in the Elm City.
“The loss of his life and the lives we lost to police brutality is a tragic reminder that we still have a long way to go to truly create a more just, equitable society. I join those across the globe as we remember this tragic day and will work every day for more just solutions to these problems,” Elicker tweeted, in part.
Attorney General William Tong released a statement saying, “Today I am remembering George Floyd, whose murder set off a national reckoning on systemic racism. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded that we have so much work left to do to fight hate and injustice in our country. Black lives matter.”