Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck last year for nine and a half minutes killing him. May 25, 2020 is a day no one will ever forget.
But there is still a long way to go in making sure Black and Brown people feel safe when in the presence of law enforcement.
On May 25, Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernández and Senator Jamaal Bailey were joined by elected officials, community leaders, clergy members, and advocates as they held a vigil in honor of Floyd.
“George Floyd was not a Bronxite, but his death and the pain felt by his family is all too familiar to us,” Fernandez said. “While the jury in Minneapolis did the right thing by convicting Derek Chauvin, we still have so much to do. It’s not enough to remember how George Floyd died, but we need to make sure no one else is taken from us by law enforcement.”
The lawmaker explained that the country finally got to see what many people of color have endured for years. Fernandez explained that this type of story doesn’t begin or end with George Floyd.
At a local level, Fernandez knows about the mistreatment of people of color by cops. In 2017, Bronx resident Andrew Kearse was in a cop car and pleaded with the officers for medical attention, yet they ignored him and he died on their watch.
In 2019 Fernandez and Bailey established the Andrew Kearse Act, where cops will be held liable if a person is not given medical attention. Now, the hope is to get it passed at the federal level.
“Like so many others Mr. Kearse was denied compassion by those who are obligated to protect his life,” she said. “Nobody in this country should fear dying when in custody by a police officer.”
In 2020 U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the Andrew Kearse Act at the federal level and earlier this month reintroduced it.
Kearse’s widow, Angelique, attended the vigil and thanked Bailey and Fernandez for trying to honor her husband’s name. She hopes the law is passed at the federal level.
“My husband begged for his life over 75 times in the back of a police car,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been fighting for four long years.”
Senator Bailey who is usually a long winded and boisterous guy, kept his remarks brief, as he had lost his voice recently.
Bailey stressed that the vast majority of cops are good at their job, but it’s the bad apples that ruin it for the rest.
“The reality is George Floyd didn’t want to die,” he stated. “Gianna said that her daddy changed the world, but Gianna shouldn’t have had to lose her father for the world to change.”
One person who deals with crime everyday is District Attorney Darcel Clark. Clark, who is married to a police officer, knows there are good cops in this world. But, noted the bad ones are the reason many people of color feel unsafe around law enforcement.
Clark hopes Floyd’s murder will cause society to change.
“Justice requires more than just a verdict and trial,” she explained. “We need all of us to take action, raise our voices and talk about the inequities in our criminal justice system.”