The mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter tearfully spoke out at Minneapolis City Hall Tuesday, saying he was a loving and devoted father who continued to provide for their family before his death at the hands of police.
Flanked by lawyers and retired NBA player Stephen Jackson, who was Floyd’s childhood friend, Roxie Washington struggled through emotion to share that Floyd’s life was made up more than his final moments beneath a Minneapolis police officer’s knee in a bystander video that sparked international outrage and widespread protests. Next to her stood their daughter, Gianna, who looked on silently.
“I want justice for him because he was good,” Washington said. “He loved (Gianna) so much.”
Washington said the officers still get to go home to their family but Floyd won’t be able to see her daughter graduate or walk her down the aisle. Jackson said he would be there to walk her down the aisle instead.
The family flew in earlier today from Houston joined by Stewart Trial Attorneys based in Atlanta.
“We just want to show the world that George Floyd is not just a name, not just a meme and not just something to be chanted,” attorney Justin Miller said. “George Floyd was a real person. He was a good person. And these are the people that loved him.”
Their appearance came on the day thousands of peaceful protesters filled the front lawn of the Capitol in St. Paul, mourning Floyd’s death at the hands of police and demanding change.
The crowd, mostly wearing masks, sat shoulder to shoulder listening to impassioned speakers, waving homemade signs and chanting. Between speeches, organizers played music and held moments of silence. While the crowd was racially and ethnically diverse, it was dominated by teens and young adults. The crowd covered the lawn from the steps of the Capitol all the way past Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Volunteers who were handing out water, snacks and sunscreen said the rally was organized by Twin Cities high school and college students.
“I am angry and I am heartbroken,” said volunteer Priya Manda, 18 of Stillwater. “There is such injustice. Something needs to be done.”
Manda said her family has also been donating food and supplies to the neighborhoods hit hard by looting and burning.
Caden Frahm, of St. Paul, stood with friends listening to speeches, occasionally raising his fist with the rest of the crowd.
“In my life, I have experienced racism.,” Frahm, 17, said. “It’s a terrible feeling. I am here for everyone who has fallen to police and to white supremacy.”
Medical students protest
A group of 150 University of Minnesota medical students on Tuesday protested outside the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office, saying the criminal complaint against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin includes a “blatant lie” about the factors in George Floyd’s death when it says pre-existing health conditions and drug toxicity played a role. Floyd was strangled, they said, and “we all saw the tape,” said Dominique Earland, a MD/PhD student.
Ifeolu Akinnola, also a MD/PhD student, said the complaint’s characterization of the medical examiner’s findings was reckless. “Everyone saw the video; it’s clear as day,” he said. “To say that his death is attributed to these pre-existing conditions and not so much as the strangulation by the officer in custody is just a blatant lie.”
The medical examiner’s preliminary findings “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” It also said Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”
A medical team hired by the Floyd family to conduct a private autopsy released their findings Monday afternoon; it showed that they believe Floyd died due to asphyxia, which happens when major organs fail due to a lack of oxygen. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner released its updating findings hours later, saying Floyd died as a result of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
Edith Hernandez, also a MD/PhD student, said the group was condemning the complaint’s autopsy comments as “a blatant lie.” “Any individual who would have been perfectly healthy would have passed away after 8 minutes and 46 seconds of asphyxiation,” she said. If the statement was written by lawyers based on information from the medical examiner’s office, the medical examiner’s office needs to make sure it’s findings are reported accurately, she said.
“I know that it’s been debated about who’s to blame, the medical examiners or the lawyers, but it’s important that we understand as a medical community our voices have power,” said Earland.
‘A beautiful legacy’
Speakers at the Capitol who addressed the crowd, demanded that all four officers present when Floyd died by criminally charged. They also demanded systemic changes including less government dollars spent on law enforcement and more spent on community needs and services.
National Guard members handed out bottled water and milled around at the edge of the crowd. About an hour into the rally, two dozen motorcycles roared into a parking lot next to the Capitol turning heads. They were the “Riders Against Police Brutality” a newly formed group of motorcyclists.
“We also deal with a lot of discrimination in the rider community,” explained one of its members, Dax Johnson, of St. Paul.
Chelsey Tucker, 26, of Robbinsdale, said she came to the rally because “I can’t be on the wrong side of history. “
She and her friends wore homemade Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
“I can’t sit home knowing this kind of stuff is going on,” said Tucker, referring to Floyd’s death recorded by a bystander.
“I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the whole thing. It made my physically sick,” she said.
Preston Hamlette, a professional rugby player in Australia who recently arrived in the Twin Cities to stay with a friend, said he was shocked by Floyd’s murder. But the size and passion of this crowd peaceful crowd gives him some hope.
“If this doesn’t get the people in charge’s attention, I don’t know what will,” Hamlette, 27, said.
Back in Minneapolis, Stewart said following Floyd’s death people have seen violence but also beauty with people standing up and speaking out. “We’ve seen massive changes happening across the country. But what we really wanted the world to see is the beauty of Gianna, who’s gonna be taller than me soon just like her dad, the beauty of Roxie who is holding up strong through this, and the actual situations in life that these things affect,” he said. “Not just that someone passes and people are angry in the streets. It affects people’s actual lives and their futures.”
“He has a legacy, a beautiful legacy that no matter how rough and chaotic the world looks right now, this beautiful little girl is going to have a bright future. We’re gonna guarantee that,” he said.