As protests and unrest continued to sweep the country in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd urged protesters to remain peaceful and push for change another way: by voting.
“Let’s do this another way,” Floyd said at a press conference on Monday. “Let’s stop thinking our voice don’t matter. Vote. Educate yourself and know who you’re voting for. That’s how we’re gonna hit them.”
Floyd’s comments came amid more than a week of protests across the country demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police violence.
Former Pres. Barack Obama addressed the connection he saw between George Floyd and voting in an essay posted online this week titled, “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change.”
Protest brings awareness to the issues, he said, but “eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices— and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”
He noted that local and state officials like county executives and district attorneys have the most sway over the criminal justice system and that voters need to be engaged at the local level – not just the presidential election.
“The bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
Coincidentally, a number of states, including Maryland, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, did head to the polls this week to vote in the presidential primaries. Though the primary elections are still being held, former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumed Democratic Party nominee.
In remarks at Philadelphia City Hall on Tuesday, Biden himself addressed the killing of George Floyd. “‘I can’t breathe.’ George Floyd’s last words,” Biden said. “But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.”
He continued: “It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us. And I mean all of us. It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words — they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago. But it’s time to listen to these words. Understand them. And respond to them — with real action.”
In Minneapolis this week, organizers with Reclaim the Block, an activist group that pushes for money from the police budget to be redistributed to community needs and resources, has been urging their local City Council officials to reduce the Minneapolis Police Department budget by $45 million and reallocate the money to community programs.
In a Tweet, Minneapolis City Council member Steve Fletcher, who has long advocated for the reduction of the MPD budget, said that he and his colleagues were also looking into what it would take to disband the police department and start from scratch. “We can totally reimagine what public safety means, what skills we’re recruiting for, what tools we do and don’t need.” He added: “We can declare policing as we know it a thing of the past, and create a compassionate, non-violent future. It will be hard. But so is managing a dysfunctional relationship with an unaccountable armed force in our city.”
The University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis school district, and the Minneapolis Park Board all recently voted to terminate their relationships with MPD as well.