Coming together to honor the life of George Floyd

Today marks one year since a Minneapolis Police Officer killed Floyd outside a grocery store. But the anniversary of his murder has come and will go without lawmakers on Capitol Hill coming to a deal to pass legislation that is named in Floyd’s honor.

A crowd of about 100 people honored the life of George Floyd in a one year anniversary of his murder by convincted officed Derek Chauvin by marching in the streets of Paterson, New Jersey, on May 25th, 2021. (Photo/Julian Leshay)

PATERSON, New Jersey – A crowd of a hundred people gathered in front of the Paterson public library this evening to commemorate the life of George Floyd, who was murdered a year ago, when a Minneapolis police officer pinned the Black man to the ground for nearly nice and half minutes.

Against a backdrop of city sounds, occasionally honking cars in solidarity and drivers shouting ‘Black Lives Matters’ while passing by, people from different parts of New Jersey came together to honor the life of George Floyd.

Zelle Thomas delivers a powerful words to the the attendees of a rally and march honoring George Floyd on the one year anniversary of the day he was murdered by convicted officer Derek Chauvin in Paterson, New Jersey on May 25th, 2021. (Photo/Julian Leshay)

“[...] America watched [...] as a knee was on the back of the neck of a black man screaming for his mother, pleading for his life. [...] The other officers just watched. They never stopped him. The people in the crowd felt so powerless, because they knew that if they tried to stop what was happening, they too could be killed, they too could be harmed. But we are not afraid anymore. Are you afraid?” said Zellie Thomas, one of the Black Lives Matters organizers.

The crowd chanted back: ‘No.’

“[...] The youth need more recreation [...] The city budget is $200 million. Paterson police get [budget] paid $40 million. And the recreation department is $2 million,” Thomas said. “So, you’re telling me we can’t invest a little bit into our kids?” he added.

Dozens of people honoring George Floyd on his one year anniversary of his death take a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Paterson, New Jersey, on May 25th, 2021. (Photo/Julian Leshay)

Speakers included:

  • Kason Little

  • Weldon McWilliams IV

  • Justin Pines

  • Victor Urbaez

“We know that in order to get to tomorrow, we must fight today, and in order for us to get to tomorrow, we have to exercise power" - said Kason Little. "We have to know our power...and exercise it freely, unapologetically, boldly as our ancestors have taught us to do. [...]

George Floyd should have been here today. [...] and I want to say loud and clearly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washignton DC: Fuck Joe Biden.

Let me say loud and clearly: Justice has not been served,” said Elizabeth organizer Kason Little. “Real justice would have meant for Gianna (Floyd’s daughter) to have her father today. Real justice is not one more Black king or queen being lost by the hands of the police. That’s real justice. Real justice is Black folks having reparations and living life without fear.

[...] So, Fuck Nancy Pelosi, fuck Joe Biden, and fuck Kamala Harris."

“We’re tired of being here. Because us being here says that somebody or something continues to work against us, and that something is the system that we’re living in” – said Weldon McWilliams IV, pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church in Paterson. “One thing I love about activists and organizers is that activists and organizers are working every day so that one day their presence will not be needed.”

“I just want to encourage everybody here today to join an organization. Be active in your liberation.”

Thomas issued the following statement to Pierce:

“It’s been a year since the death of George Floyd. People are still being killed by police all across the country, even here in New Jersey. The solution to ending police violence doesn’t come from increasing investment into police, but by decreasing our investment and putting that money into alternatives that will truly make us safe.”

Despite the wave of activism and awareness that followed Floyd’s death last summer, today's speakers emphasized the need for solidarity and continued movement.

Following the rally, the crowd marched to the Police station chanting, "Black Lives Matter."

Three Paterson Police officers stand outside their department building that was caution taped and barricaded off as the protesters stood outside of it in Paterson, NJ, on May 25th, 2021. (Photo/Julian Leshay)

NJ Gubernatorial candidate, Madelyn Hoffman who was in attendance said: “On this day, one year after the world saw a policeman squeeze the life out of George Floyd by pressing his knee down hard on his neck for more than 9 minutes, we still see so much state-applied violence around the world and right here in New Jersey, attempting to suppress free speech and choke the life out of people physically or with policies of violence. And we see the U.S. government supporting those violent governments in their brutality, financially and sometimes militarily.

People all around the world are protesting in the streets, attempting to change this model.

Many of the victims of this state violence, find their way to the United States, including in immigrant communities right here in New Jersey, where they, along with the descendants of people stolen from their land and indigenous people find themselves victims of another form of institutionalized racial violence. And, in rally after rally, held here in New Jersey, the large population of immigrants are joining with Black Lives Matter activists in standing up and speaking out.

Here in New Jersey, we are calling for the need to change the model by defunding and demilitarizing the police -- something so many are demanding -- while continuing to call for justice in case after case of police brutality. Tell us, Governor Murphy, where is justice for Jameek Lowery? What about Maurice Gordon? What about Carl Dorsey III? What about the countless other victims of police brutality in this state whose names we don’t know yet?”

The crowd of protesters stand outside the a Paterson Police department building during a rally to honor George Floyd on his one year anniversary of his murder. This protest took place in Paterson, New Jersey, on May 25th, 2021. (Photo/Julian Leshay)

Similar commemorations of Floyd’s death took place across the country and globe. Floyd’s family and their attorney, Ben Crump spent a busy morning at the White house, meeting with national leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,Vice President Kamala Harris and President Biden. In Minneapolis, organizers held a community festival and candlelight vigil Tuesday, following a march on Sunday at the courthouse where Chauvin was convicted.

Article by Alie Pierce, Photos by Julian Leshay.

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