MINNEAPOLIS – The intersection where George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was renamed in his honor Wednesday, among a series of events to remember a man whose killing forced America to confront racial injustice.
Floyd's brother Terrence was among family members to attend as a commemorative street sign marked the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue as “George Perry Floyd Square” on the two-year anniversary of his death.
Floyd thanked hundreds of people who turned out to honor his brother, singing songs as they marched a block-long stretch to finish at the intersection.
The renaming was followed by a candlelight vigil at a nearby ceremony.
The intersection quickly became known informally as George Floyd Square soon after Floyd's death, with a large sculpture of a clenched fist as the centerpiece of memorials.
“Today we honor two years since George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement earlier Wednesday. “Each day since, we have remembered George Floyd’s life and legacy as a friend, father, brother, and loved one. His name has been heard in every corner of our world.”
Colten Muth, 32, visited the intersection Wednesday ahead of the vigil to “make sure I’m paying homage because his sacrifice made a huge impact on the world.”
Muth, who identifies as mixed race, recalled watching the bystander video of Floyd's dying moments from his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville. He said it hit him especially hard because he grew up just blocks from the corner, walking to the convenience store there many times as a kid.
“That could’ve been me facedown in the pavement,” he said. “It shook me to the point like even where I was living I had a sense of fear just walking around my own neighborhood.”
Muth called Chauvin’s conviction a “first step” toward holding police accountable, but said the city has done nothing substantial to improve policing and the conditions that led to Floyd’s killing. And he said the lack of federal policing reforms after two years was disappointing.
On Wednesday in Washington, with Congress deadlocked over how to address racism and excessive use of force, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on policing to mark the second anniversary.
Later events in Minneapolis include a Thursday gathering of families of loved ones who have died in interactions with police and a fundraising gala Friday aimed at raising money to preserve offerings left by protesters and mourners at the intersection where Floyd was killed.
An all-day festival and a concert at the intersection were also planned for Saturday.
Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd was handcuffed and pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
Chauvin is serving 22 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of state charges of murder and manslaughter last year. The ex-officer also pleaded guilty to violating Floyd's civil rights in a federal case, where he now faces a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.
Former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are scheduled to stand trial on state charges in June. Thomas Lane pleaded guilty last week to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter for his role in Floyd's killing, months after all three former Officers were convicted in February of federal charges of willfully violating Floyd's rights.
“In Minneapolis, we will continue to say his name and honor his spirit,” Frey said. “In these days of reflection and remembrance, we must lead with kindness towards one another – and especially look out for and support our Black friends and neighbors.”
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd