ST. PAUL — On the eve of the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, families whose loved ones have died at the hands of police gathered before the Minnesota Capitol building, demanding lawmakers pass reforms to prevent further officer-involved deaths.
Inside, the cool stone Capitol building was empty, lawmakers having adjourned their session last week without passing any of the police reform bills up for debate.
Toshira Garraway Allen, an organizer for Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, stood before the glimmering white dome on Monday, May 24, pleading with lawmakers to pass a slate of bills she said are “rooted in our stories”: bills that would provide families of victims of police violence with body camera footage, end traffic stops for minor vehicle infractions, end qualified immunity for police officers and more.
While House Democrats support the bills, they have stalled in the Republican-dominated state Senate. Garraway Allen and others on Monday did not hesitate to name Senate leaders, who she said are “holding up the bills, the legislation, a year after George Floyd was murdered.”
“A year later, we are still pleading and begging for laws to change,” Garraway Allen said. “A year later … that should be the least of our worries while we’re grieving the loss of our loved ones. But yet, we have to be out here pleading for things.”
Garraway Allen was the fiancée of Justin Teigen before he died in 2009 as St. Paul police pursued him. Police say Teigen was accidentally crushed while hiding in a dumpster, but his family suspects foul play.
Katie Wright, the mother of Daunte Wright, who was shot dead by police during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center in April, said Monday that if legislators don’t act soon, “There’s going to be another Daunte.” She wore a black T-shirt emblazoned “Justice for Daunte Wright.”
“Everybody’s just taking their time on it, and if we continue to take our time and continue to stay silent, I don't want somebody else’s family to stand here with me,” she said. "Before it happens to somebody else, somebody has to do something.”
When Courtney Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend, took to the podium, she admitted she “get(s) nervous” talking in front of crowds about Floyd — or as she calls him, "my man." When she choked up, Garraway Allen walked up to her side and took her hand. The crowd began to chant, “We’ve got your back.”
“As you all can see, this pain is like no other for all of us,” Ross said, gesturing to the families behind her. “We all share it. All these families, we all feel this every day.”
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of Minnesota’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, placed the blame for the Legislature's inaction specifically on state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who chairs the Senate's judiciary and public safety committee. With their leadership positions, the two senators control whether bills receive hearings, which is necessary before they get a floor vote.
For those lawmakers holding up the police reform bills, Hussein issued a warning: “We are coming for you.”
“I believe that if nothing is done by the end of this summer, it is time for Minnesotans to wake up and realize the politics of this state are corrupt,” he said. “The people have awoken and we will continue to demand justice.”