Criminal Justice

George Floyd’s Memorials Prompted Calls For Change. What’s Next?

Many hope Floyd’s memory will continue to drive meaningful change for African Americans.

Mourners attend George Floyd’s memorial in Houston, on Monday, June 8, 2020.

George Floyd was finally laid to rest Tuesday, after two days of memorials honoring his life. But as many of the eulogies given during his funeral made clear, the conversation about how to avoid future deaths like his is only getting started.

"America, it is time for a change, even if it shall begin with more protests," Floyd's niece Brooke Williams said during the service. "No justice, no peace."

In Williams’ emotional eulogy, she mourned her uncle and said current laws have disadvantaged African Americans for too long.

"These laws need to be changed," she said. "No more hate crimes, please."

The Rev. William Lawson, a Houston civil rights icon, said he's already seen some change and he's hopeful for more.

"This boy is going to bring forth a demand for better government, for better policing," he said. "He is going to bring forth a demand, a multicultural, multinational, worldwide demand for change."

Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, called for a federal Department of Reconciliation. And he said he would present a Congressional resolution to Floyd's family, which will acknowledge how his death will alter history.

"We're going to make sure that those who look through time, that they will know that he made a difference within his time because he changed not only this country, not only the United States, he changed the world," Green said the resolution says.

In Houston at least, elected officials say changes are coming. During the funeral, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced an executive order in the works, which he said will ban police from using chokeholds, require de-escalation and establish a duty to intervene. Officers will have to exhaust all alternatives before using lethal force, he said. Turner signed the executive order Thursday after the city council passed next year’s $5.1 billion city budget, which included an increase in police funding.

Turner said it's not just the police – other areas need attention as well.

"When we invest in communities that have been underserved and under-invested in, that we haven't done the investment, then you don't have to spend as much on policing," the mayor said.

In Harris County, commissioners are considering a civilian oversight board for law enforcement.

And on the state level, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he's been in talks with state lawmakers to address police brutality.

"I'm here to tell you today that I am committed to working with the family of George Floyd to ensure we never have anything like this ever occur in the state of Texas," Abott said after viewing Floyd's body in Houston on Monday.

It's certainly what many of the people turning out for Floyd's funeral are hoping. More than 6,000 reportedly came to view his body the day before the funeral and many gathered along the funeral route to watch his golden casket process to his final resting place.

The early action in response to Floyd's death has encouraged Melanye Price, a political science professor at Prairie View A&M University.

Price said there have been similar calls for change after many other police shooting of black Americans. But this time, she said, seems different.

"What you're starting to see are the people who can actually make change inside of these institutions also at least publicly – we have to wait to see what they're going to do, but at least publicly – recognizing that this cannot continue," she said.

Price proposes a shift in priorities. That includes things like mental health crises, which other groups should handle.

"There's going to have to be not less money for the police but a shift in the ways in which we use city funds," she said. "Right now, police officers are really being asked to do more than what they're actually trained for."

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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