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San Diegans join George Floyd’s cousin to mark year since death that sparked movement

Gary Jones points to sky as Rev. Shane Harris and others take a knee to mark one year since George Floyd's death
Gary Jones, a cousin of George Floyd, points to the sky as Rev. Shane Harris (suit) and others take a knee for nine minutes and 29 seconds Tuesday night to mark one year since the death of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Behind them, the County Administration Building was lighted in blue and green, the colors of Minneapolis.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Speakers at Tuesday night’s vigil called for more police reforms and urged the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021

Leaders of San Diego’s racial justice movement joined George Floyd’s cousin Tuesday night outside the San Diego County Administration Center to mark the date one year ago that Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking outrage and a nationwide protest movement.

“God makes no mistakes,” said Gary Jones, Floyd’s cousin and a San Diego-based Navy culinary specialist CS3. “His life was (taken) for us to all make a change, and it starts with us.”

“George Floyd let me know when he was little that the whole world would know his name,” Jones said. “George Floyd, he made a difference out here ... if he can’t breathe, you can’t breathe.”

Just before 7:40 p.m., as the sun began to set, several dozen of the county’s racial justice leaders and their supporters took a knee for the same amount of time that former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. As the group knelt, the County Administration Center lit up in blue and green — the colors of Minneapolis.

“On the day that George Floyd was killed, the cop who killed him, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds,” said the Rev. Shane Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates. “Like his life didn’t matter, like he had no humanity in him, like there was no dignity in caring for a life.”

A jury convicted Chauvin last month on murder and manslaughter charges.

A family-friendly street festival, musical performances and a moment of silence were held Tuesday to honor George Floyd and mark the year since he died at the hands of Minneapolis police

“Today is the one-year anniversary from the day that we lost George Floyd, but also the day George Floyd changed the world,” Harris said.

That was the message Tuesday night, that Floyd and his death changed the world, but that more change is needed to make sure deaths like his are less frequent.

Jones led the gathered crowd in a chant of “George Floyd Act.” Harris had also called on the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which passed the House in March and is aimed at increasing accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricting the use of certain policing practices and enhancing transparency.

Changes to pretext stops and consent searches among reforms activists are seeking

Jones was at sea aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt when he watched a video last year that showed the killing of his cousin. Jones has been in the Navy six years and in San Diego since 2016.

He said Floyd — whom he calls by his middle name of Perry — still appears to him and speaks to him, making sure he has a positive impact on the world.

“I speak to him all the time, he always taps me and gives me a nudge and says, ‘Hey man, what type of difference you making on down there in that world?’” Jones aid. “Perry, I know you looking down right now, I’m not dizzy. You woke me up.”

Jesse Evans also attended Tuesday’s vigil and memorial. A video of his arrest earlier this month shows San Diego police officers tackling and punching him. Harris and other leaders pointed to Evans’ case as an example that should help spark change without the need for someone like Floyd to die. And they called on the San Diego Police Department and others to expel problem officers.

“You need to get serious about plucking out the Derek Chauvins ahead of the next George Floyd, because enough is enough,” Harris said.


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