Afeni Evans, 23, had recently graduated from the Army and was studying political science at a community college in Maryland. Her ambition was to one day help shape policy from within the government. Evans, on the other hand, will mark one year since her “entire life definitely changed” – the day George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in an incident captured on video in excruciating detail.
Floyd’s name quickly spread from the corner of Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street, where witness Darnella Frazier, a high school student, captured the 46-year-old begging Chauvin and two other officers who were holding him down for his life.
Millions of people, including Evans, who had seen the same footage and had been cooped up in their homes due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, took to the streets in an unprecedented show of protest. They demanded policing reform and bolstered a broader racial reckoning.
The event brought people together from coast to coast, galvanized a new generation of young activists, and resulted in some reforms. It also triggered a crisis for law enforcement and, according to some, exacerbated the country’s already simmering political divisions.
Evans stated that she dropped out of college and moved to Washington, D.C. But, rather than working in government, as she had hoped, she became a full-time community organizer and self-described “warrior for justice” on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter protest movement. Evans claimed to have protested for more than 200 days in a row in the District of Columbia, being arrested multiple times for alleged civil disobedience, being shot with rubber bullets, and being tear-gassed.
Andre Hill, 47, was fatally shot in December in Columbus, Ohio, by a white police officer who is now facing a murder charge after emerging from a friend’s garage holding a cell phone. The officer has entered a not-guilty plea. Daunte Wright, 20, was shot dead by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center in April after being pulled over for having an expired tag on his car. The officer, who claimed she mistook her gun for her Taser while scuffled with Wright and other officers, has been charged with manslaughter and has pleaded not guilty.
Bass stated that the Congressional Black Caucus, of which she is a member, has tried and failed for the last 50 years to pass legislation related to policing. The legislation is now being considered by the Senate and President Joe Biden, who plans to meet with Floyd’s family at the White House on Tuesday. In his joint address to Congress in April, Biden urged lawmakers to send the policing reform bill to his desk for signature.
The retired chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, Robert Boyce, said the yearlong push to reform, defund, and, in some cases, abolish the police in the aftermath of Floyd’s death has cast a shadow over the nation’s 18,000 police agencies.
Boyce stated that he and other law enforcement officers support many of the proposals in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, such as prohibiting racial profiling and chokeholds and giving the federal government more leeway to investigate local police departments and force changes in practices and policies to emphasize de-escalation over the use of deadly force. Some supporters of the legislation argue that it is the first step toward establishing a national standard of policing.
Boyce, on the other hand, opposes the provision of the bill that calls for the repeal of qualified immunity for police officers, a judicially created doctrine that protects officers from being held personally liable in lawsuits for constitutional violations.
Proponents of repealing qualified immunity argue that if officers know they can be held personally liable, they will think twice about acting. However, developing a blanket policy for all police departments has been difficult and contentious, leaving some rank-and-file officers feeling under attack.