At the south Minneapolis street corner where George Floyd was killed by police a year ago Tuesday, and at memorials and gatherings all over the country and world, people remembered the man whose death transformed a nation's understanding of police violence against its Black citizens.
"This is a living memorial, it's not a dead memorial," said Marquise Bowie of south Minneapolis, who joined a large crowd at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, the site of Floyd's deadly run-in with four Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day of 2020. "In order for something to live, something has to die. We are not going to mourn today, we are going to celebrate."
As President Joe Biden met in Washington with members of Floyd's family, again urging Congress to seal a deal on a federal policing legislation named in his honor, state and local leaders in Minnesota echoed the president's call to not squander the political momentum generated by Floyd's death.
"George Floyd is going to change the world," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a daytime event at a downtown park, hosted by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation and Visual Black Justice. "He's going to make sure that we look intentionally at ourselves, acknowledge our shortcomings and make sure that we all do better from here. This kind of police brutality cannot continue."
Last May 25, an employee at Cup Foods called 911 to report that Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. A cellphone video captured key moments of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds in which former officer Derek Chauvin knelt with his knee on the 46-year-old Floyd's neck. By the end, Floyd was dead.
"I didn't know this man from a can of paint, but I knew his life mattered," Darnella Frazier, who was 17 when she recorded that scene, posted Tuesday on Facebook. "I knew that he was another Black man in danger with no power."
Crowds swelled on a warm afternoon at the south side intersection, despite a jarring moment earlier in the day as activists were setting up for a gathering culminating with a candlelight vigil.
A series of gunshots rang out around 10 a.m., a moment captured live on an Associated Press broadcast being filmed nearby. People scrambled for cover, and witnesses reported a vehicle speeding away. Police said one person showed up at a nearby hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound that was not life-threatening.
It was a reminder that unrest and political turbulence in the days after Floyd's death are still fresh in local minds as Minneapolis deals with a spike in violent crime and a dwindling police force that's lost trust with many of the city's residents.
Memorials and protests in Floyd's honor cropped up around the globe Tuesday: in New York City and Washington and Floyd's hometown of Houston, at a socially distanced rally in Berlin and demonstrations in London and Glasgow, with a "Black Lives Matter" flag draped on the front of the U.S. Embassy in Athens.
It was an echo of sorts to last year's demonstrations and riots in the days that followed Floyd's death, which quickly spread around the U.S. and world. Minneapolis and St. Paul saw several nights of escalating unrest, which led Minneapolis leaders to abandon a police station under siege and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to business owners along Lake Street and other hard-hit areas.
Chauvin was convicted April 20 on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter in Floyd's death. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June. A federal grand jury this month indicted Chauvin and three other officers at the scene; those three officers also face state charges.
"We got a little bit of justice, but we really got no peace yet," Angie Evans said, standing near a table selling T-shirts at 38th and Chicago. "I pray and hope … that police will change the way they deal with our people, to not draw their guns first, or think the worst when they see a Black person."
Despite the grim nature of the anniversary, many who gathered in Minneapolis said there were reasons to celebrate. By the afternoon, the crowd at Commons Park near U.S. Bank Stadium had grown to several hundred. A band played on a stage, lending the feel of a summer music festival.
Food truck workers hauled in ice and fired up their grills. Organizers said they wanted it to feel like a party.
"We have to take in these good moments," said Athena Papagiannopoulos, a 25-year-old Minneapolis resident and activist who founded Visual Black Justice. It was another chance to celebrate Chauvin's conviction, she said, something many in the Black community thought would never happen.
"We're so used to hearing no," Papagiannopoulos said.
Around George Floyd Square, the mood had rebounded a few hours after the morning gunshots.
"It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, you see little kids playing," said retired firefighter Tony Smith, who was raising money for homeless encampments in the area. "I just hope the shooting stays away. We don't need that here."
Aminata Seye, 24, traveled from her home in Houston — Floyd's hometown — to Minneapolis for the one-year remembrance. She joined a volunteer committee with the George Floyd Memorial Foundation and was helping stage the downtown event Tuesday.
"It means you're a part of history," Seye said of her first visit to the Twin Cities. "You get an opportunity to say you were part of organizing the first inaugural memorial for George Floyd. We're not just saying things. We're actually doing something."
Activist Toussaint Morrison said protesters and community organizers had no choice but to act, but that it remains to be seen if politicians and powerful institutions will support real change.
"This should be happening all the time," Morrison said, motioning to the celebration. "There should be Black joy and Black celebration all the time, and it shouldn't take a Black man dying for the city to create space for this."
Political leaders in Minneapolis and at the State Capitol have been embroiled in thorny debates about law enforcement accountability and police funding since Floyd's death. In November, Minneapolis residents will likely vote on whether to replace the police department with a new public safety agency. Gov. Tim Walz and DFL lawmakers, meanwhile, have been unable to persuade statehouse Republicans to sign on with new accountability measures beyond a collection of bipartisan measures passed last summer.
"Let us recommit ourselves to seeking meaningful police reform and working together to make lasting change in Minnesota," Walz said in a statement.
A proclamation from the governor had asked Minnesotans to observe 9 minutes and 29 seconds of silence in Floyd's honor at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
"We are here, and it's been a year," Bridgett Floyd, George's sister, said at the Commons Park memorial. "It's been a troubling year, a long year. But we made it."
Staff writer Patrick Condon and wire services contributed to this story.