Tuesday marks one year since the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Streets across cities in the U.S., Canada and around the world flooded with protests over his murder, which was captured on video and replayed thousands of times across news and social media.
That video of Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes as he lay on the ground on May 25 triggered an outpouring of anger, protest and support from individuals and groups not normally associated with the Black Lives movement.
Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, was among those protesting in Toronto.
“The very first thought that comes to mind for those of us who were on the ground was deep sadness and deep anger and deep rage and sort of sorrow for George Floyd’s family, for his community – but also for all other communities that are victimized by police violence,” said Diverlus.
Diverlus said last year, you could really see that the ground work of the Black Lives Matter movement had ballooned. He said the major turning point was that they were able to start a conversation by explaining why it was important in the first place.
“Every day people who did not engage in these concepts, who weren’t activists, were talking about the concept of Black Lives Matter with their co-workers, at their dining room tables with their families and in their communities,” he said.
“We have always said, ‘This was not a moment, this is a movement.’ It’s no longer one group of people who are saying something, but all across civil society, we are all saying the same thing, that Black Lives Matter,” added Diverlus.
Diverlus said they no longer have to convince people these issues exist or the urgency of them.
“People saw it for themselves — why Black activists had been calling for transformation within policing for decades,” he said. “Overall, what people were calling for was breath, was the chance to breathe, was a chance to have some space from anti-Black racism.”
PHOTO: Thousands of people demonstrate to defund the police during a Black Lives Matter protest as they painted the street pink in front of the City of Toronto police headquarters in Toronto on Friday, June 19, 2020. Click on the icons for a look back at the Black Lives Matter movement in Toronto.
Beverly Bain, University of Toronto Professor of Women and Gender Studies, called last summer’s protests a “global uprising,” led by Black activists.
“It was in plain sight. So people witnessed that very slow, deliberate killing of a Black man. And that was like the last straw in this moment that said absolutely ‘enough is enough’,” said Bain.
Now, coming up on a year later, Diverlus says the work has really begun as Black community members follow up on the promises made last summer.
“Governments, public agencies, groups and collectives of all kinds, organizations and business of all kinds were making commitments to addressing anti-Black racism within their own spaces,” said Diverlus. “Black folk that exist within those communities are now calling back to those commitments and are asking for updates and are asking for what has changed.”
Bain adds not only has the Black Lives Matter movement been effective – it’s also grown to connect to and propel other forms of current global uprisings.
“Today we’re seeing the collaboration, support and solidarity between Black organizers and the Black global protests with that of Indigenous protests, with that of Palestinian protests – all in unison, calling for a just world.”
Derek Chauvin, the police officer convicted in Floyd’s murder, is scheduled to be sentenced June 25 and faces up to 30 years in prison.
The trial of three other former officers involved has been pushed back to March of next year. All four are also facing federal civil rights charges.