YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Tuesday marks one year since the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests for police reform. Tuesday afternoon, about 50 people gathered in Youngstown to not only remember Floyd but to talk about the movement his death has created.
The memorial service was hosted by the Next Steps Coalition on Police Reform in the parking lot of Union Baptist Church on Lincoln Avenue.
Organizers and activists said it was about honoring the memory of a man who lost his life.
“Protest against violence, brutality, especially towards Black people, quickly spread against the United States and globally,” said Rev. Michael Harrison, Union Baptist Church.
Video footage of Floyd’s last moments shook the country. Former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes.
“When you watch that and, you know, as a young Black person, that could be you, that could be a family member, it could be a friend,” said Jaladah Aslam, president of the Youngstown-Warren Black Caucus. “It just did something to everyone to watch it unfold the way it did.”
Rev. Harrison talked about the number of African Americans who have died in police officer involved shootings since Floyd’s death.
“We’re here because we need to have action. Action needs to take place and it can only take place when the cry of the people is heard,” Rev. Harrison said.
The group said in the wake of the trial and all of the protests, it’s important to remember that Floyd was not only a symbol, but a person. His family and friends are still grieving.
“I feel it was not so much just one moment but a slow-motion representation of the Black experience in America,” said Rev. Todd Johnson, Second Baptist Church “A House of Hope.”
Since his death, leaders in Washington, D.C. have introduced a bill aimed at police reform and accountability. It’s called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. So far, it has passed the House and is now in the Senate.
Members of Tuesday’s rally called for support of the bill.
“What we don’t want this to be is another Black man who died in vain,” Aslam said.
Since last summer, local police chiefs have been called to open forums to speak about police reform and have conversations about change. So far, they’ve had five of these meetings.
Rev. Kenneth Simon, with New Bethel Baptist Church, said progress has been made.
“Several of our police departments are moving towards the use of body cams and attempting to address the issue of racial profiling by adopting bias-free policing policies,” Rev. Simon said.
The Next Steps Coalition on Police Reform shared some concrete ideas on how to both protect the public from bad apples, and protect police officers and better train them for their daily tasks.
Aslam said, quite frankly, police officers have challenging jobs and their training doesn’t always prepare them for every call they take.
She wants to see things like body cameras and independent investigations, especially after an officer-involved death.
Another idea is a database to track “bad” cops who are fired from one department for misconduct so they can’t get another job at another department. There could also be citizen review boards and more training and staff to better help those with mental issues.