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Nearly four years after the police killing of George Floyd, civil rights advocate Leslie Redmond posed a question to a panel of speakers Friday: What progress have we seen in the fight for racial justice, and what significant challenges remain?

Attorney and civil rights activist Nekima Levy Armstrong noted the four Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd's murder were prosecuted and convicted, which she called a "sign of progress."

"Around the country there have been a number of police officers who have been held accountable under the law and years ago that wouldn't have happened," she said.

But, Levy Armstrong added, people must not get comfortable. "A lot of folks here and elsewhere want to quickly move on as if George Floyd was never murdered, as if racial justice had never happened, and we have to be the vanguard of change and stand up for what is right," she said.

Rev. Richard H. Coleman gives a closing prayer at an interfaith service at City Hall in Minneapolis on Friday in remembrance of the murder of George Floyd.
Rev. Richard H. Coleman gives a closing prayer at an interfaith service at City Hall in Minneapolis on Friday in remembrance of the murder of George Floyd.

Renée Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Hundreds gathered Friday in Minneapolis for a day of remembrance hosted by the nonprofit Win Back to honor Floyd and to reflect, heal and rally against racial injustice. Saturday marks the four-year anniversary of Memorial Day 2020, when Floyd was murdered by police at the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, spurring global protests and a racial reckoning that shined a harsh spotlight on Minneapolis' inequities.

"Buildings burned to the ground … but our hearts still cry out from the pain," said Redmond, executive director of Win Back and a former NAACP president, as she read from a poem following a breakfast at Courtyard Minneapolis Downtown.

"After 2020, nothing was ever supposed to be the same. Politicians and police made promises, corporations made declarations, yet basic human rights are still under attack. Now is not the time to sit back and relax because the city is still burning."

Mayor Jacob Frey recalled how Floyd worked as a security guard near where he lived in northeast Minneapolis, engaging in "razor-sharp banter" with people walking by.

"He was a happy and uplifting person and we can all be unhappy and uplifted through his memory while recognizing the importance of the continuation of progress — we have to do better and we recognize in Minneapolis we have a sacred mission," Frey said.

Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, said that since Floyd's killing "people are believing our stories more now. But the acknowledgements of all the harm that has been done, we still have to work on that."

Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office successfully led the prosecution against Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for murdering Floyd, noted that juries convicted all four officers charged in the case in state and federal court. He said juries are now more willing to convict in these cases.

But Ellison added that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to create national police reform has not passed. He raised a concern that some state attorneys general are fighting corporate diversity practices.

"We are in the middle of a backlash right here, right now," said Ellison.

Memorialize the Movement, a group led by Black women that collects and preserves murals painted on plywood during the unrest following Floyd's death, held a gathering at its south Minneapolis headquarters Friday to screen a film about its work and have a panel discussion.

Leesa Kelly, the group's founder and executive director, said there's still a long way to go when it comes to the treatment of Black and brown people in the Twin Cities. Still, she said, she's proud of the work her group has done to highlight the art of Black people. Kelly said the group has collected more than 1,000 murals and will display the art Saturday.

"Not a lot has changed and that disappoints me, and yet, I have hope because the work that I'm doing is changing things," she said.

Star Tribune staff writer Louis Krauss contributed to this story.