‘All lives can’t matter until Black lives do’: Memphis activist questions if changes made year after George Floyd’s death

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One year ago, George Floyd took his last breaths, killed under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, sparking a historic summer of protests in Memphis as thousands demanded change. However, some saying those changes don’t go far enough.

Among the thousands taking to the streets in Memphis last summer, activist LJ Abraham led dozens of protests last summer after she was sparked by what she saw on video.

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“I got tired of seeing black and brown men and children being killed by police, as well as women,” Abraham said during an interview, recalling her motivations last summer.

Floyd’s death caused a summer of protests where chants of “Black Lives Matter” echoed through city streets.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder while three other officers await trial on related charges, but Abraham said that’s only a start.

“That’s just one of many Black and brown people to get murdered by police on a daily basis,” she said. “If there’s just going to be those three charged with that one murder, what about the rest of them? Where’s the accountability for them?”

More than 3,000 policing-related bills have been introduced in legislatures around the country in the year since Floyd’s death, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures; more than 90 have been introduced in Tennessee.

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One of the bills signed into law in Tennessee requires law enforcement to re-develop use of force policies and bans the use of no-knock warrants. Two other bills, pushed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, enact criminal justice reforms.

“The governor’s plan doesn’t go far enough,” said Rep. GA Hardaway, D-Shelby County, speaking about the legislative session and efforts to pass criminal justice and police reform legislation.

Where critics said legislation falls short, others said the protests raised awareness, but also point to more restrictive voting laws as pushback.

“People are talking seriously about racism structural racism in ways that we haven’t seen. … Immediately following that, you begin to see some voting laws meant to disenfranchise those very individuals,” said Dr. Justin Rose, chair of the department of politics and law at Rhodes College.

That was part of why Abraham said not enough has changed.

“All lives can’t matter until Black lives do,” Abraham said.

The legislative session in Tennessee has ended.

There is still no national legislation on policing reform, though Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, said Monday progress had been made, according to reports.

Activists in Memphis said no events were scheduled to take place to commemorate Floyd’s death.