© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Offerings are left at George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi
By Jeff Mason and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Americans on Tuesday marked the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd beneath a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee, which catalyzed the largest U.S. protest movement in decades over police brutality against Black people.
In Washington, members of Floyd’s family are set to meet privately with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House and with lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, where police reform legislation in Floyd’s name has stalled.
Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) civil rights group, said he also would meet with lawmakers to urge passage of the legislation.
“It’s hard to say if race relations, specifically, are better now than they were a year ago because change takes a lot of time,” Johnson said in an interview. “We can’t change everything in a few months or in a year. But there’s a there’s definitely a new tone in this country.”
In Minneapolis, a foundation created in Floyd’s memory by some in his family organized an afternoon of music and food in a park near the downtown courtroom where Derek Chauvin, the former officer, was found guilty last month of murdering Floyd during a landmark trial in U.S. policing.
Chauvin, 45, faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced on June 25. The three other officers at the scene have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting Chauvin, and will go on trial next year. The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers the day after Floyd was killed.
Later on Tuesday, mourners are set to gather for a candlelight vigil at the stretch of road where Chauvin knelt on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes.
Darnella Frazier, a teenage bystander, recorded the killing on her cellphone, uploading video to Facebook (NASDAQ:) that horrified people around the world. Floyd had been suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
People took to the streets of cities across the United States and around the world following Floyd’s death, protesting racism and police brutality.
Legislation has been pursued in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to increase the accountability or oversight of police, and 24 states have enacted new laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The laws have included the mandating of body-worn cameras for officers, criminalizing neck restraints or making it easier for the public to see police officers’ disciplinary records.
Still, some activists say such measures, which in some jurisdictions have been on the books for years, are insufficient to address systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
‘INCREMENTAL PROGRESS’ ON LEGISLATION
Biden is expected to discuss the progress of the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Congress, which Floyd’s family has supported, in his meeting with the relatives on Tuesday.
“He has a genuine relationship with them, and the courage and grace of this family and especially his daughter, Gianna, has really stuck with the president,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Floyd’s daughter and her mother, along with Floyd’s sister, brothers, sister-in-law and nephew are expected to attend.
Biden had wanted U.S. lawmakers to finish the legislation overhauling police practices by the anniversary of Floyd’s death, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate have been working toward that end.
Senator Tim Scott, the lead Republican negotiator, told reporters last week that they were making only “incremental progress” and there was no chance of striking a deal in the coming week.
The biggest sticking point has been qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields individual police officers from lawsuits in certain circumstances. Republicans oppose provisions in the bill rolling back such immunity, while many liberal Democrats say they would only support a bill that abolished it.
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