Statement on the Third Anniversary of the Murder of George Floyd

May 25 2023

Three years.

It’s been three years since the world stopped for a second time in 2020. After nearly three months of lockdown, with increasingly scary news about the potential scope of a pandemic that shut down the world, a video enraged the soul of the world so much that we collectively took to the streets in rage, and grief, and righteous determination.  On this day, three years ago, that video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Perry Floyd, Jr. ignited one of the largest direct action protests the planet has ever known. Three years later, so much has changed, and it has been too easy for too many to forget what it felt like. So, on this day, we remember.

We remember that, until the video taken by then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier came to light, the Minneapolis Police Department formal account blamed Mr. Floyd for his own death. And we remember how the story was the first to bump COVID-19 from the lead into every nightly news episode since the lockdowns began in March. We remember that the local protests soon turned into national ones and then international protests in solidarity, not just against police violence, but against the larger structural racism of which they are an acutely brutal symptom. We remember that, during the summer of washing our hands to ward off a disease we did not yet understand, city after city used oppressive, illegal, and deadly tactics to control public outrage around systemic racism.

We also remember a rare moment when police unions came out to denounce an incident loudly, something we have not seen since. The moment—nearly as rare—when it felt like there was a chance of bipartisan agreement to curb racist state violence in the lead-up to the first failures in Congress of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. And we remember how quickly the conversation moved from policing, to Confederate Statues, to Confederate names on military installations as the robustness of the U.S.’s commitment to launder our history of racism was measured next to our inability to protect the descendants of formerly enslaved residents.

We remember all of that today because, as CPE has continued to do the work, that collective will is not gone but is too easily forgotten. Worse, even those who work to change the ways we deliver public safety have begun to shrink their appetites and imaginations for what is possible, as if tens of millions of people did not take to the streets amidst a species-altering danger to demand better. Just. Three. Years. Ago.

In the time since no one could look away, there have been too many who chose to. But, while our victories have not been as grand as the scale of our needs, it would be wrong to erase the hard-won progress three years since that nine-minute and twenty-nine-second lynching. 

We walk on the road of progress, carrying the memory of each life lost, knowing that one life lost is too high a price to pay. Each step is an exercise of hope for a better future. CPE’s work, grounded in science, and honed in practice, is the exercise of hope for a tomorrow free from harm. We are about the work of changing how police respond to mental health calls, reducing the reasons they stop a car, and especially saying the hard part out loud: There are systemic issues of White supremacy in law enforcement. These problems can be identified, measured, studied, and fixed. This is only the start of the list.

Our work is in cities across the country. We are making our voices heard in legislative chambers, on the airwaves, and helping shape the days ahead for the next generation. There is a lot of work remaining. There is comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this struggle. The fight continues in small towns, big cities, and the halls of Congress. Small wins lead to big victories, and no fight worth winning is ever really easy. Through it all, we remember the names, all the names of stolen futures, and the pain in the families and communities they leave behind. Mourning does not end after three years, or 400 years. Yet, people move on. It’s the forgetting that dishonors our dead. And after three years of so much death, our dead should be honored.