George Floyd: Inspiring Unity and Advocacy for Justice

Mason Gahner's picture

Sometimes, a life can inspire a movement. The world watched in collective horror when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin unjustly took George Floyd’s life. Floyd’s death sparked global riots, societal and legal changes, and awareness of police brutality and systemic racism. 

George Floyd: Inspiring Unity and Advocacy for Justice

George Floyd was an African American male born in North Carolina and raised in Houston, Texas. George grew up in the Black Third Ward, an area of Houston that was deteriorating, dismissed, poor, and often overlooked. George’s most common meal, or snack, was a banana-and-mayonnaise sandwich. He would wash his clothes in the bathroom sink, and lost friends to gun violence. Given the nickname “Perry,” he played basketball and football for Jack Yates high school in the 1990’s. Floyd could’ve been an athlete for Texas A&M University but because he was struggling with academics and finances, was never able to attend University. He dropped all college courses and quit pursuing higher education in 1992. George had nonviolent drug offenses during the 1990s and 2000s, as well as a guilty plea deal for an armed robbery charge in 2007. He was incarcerated for five years. To change his way of life not only for himself but for his daughter Gianna, he moved to Minneapolis in 2017.  

At first, he found a sense of belonging in a rehabilitation program that he’d graduated from. He worked two jobs to support himself: a bouncer at a nightclub, and for the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, in 2020, he began struggling with addiction to opioids when the pandemic lockdowns began. He became a part of the unemployment statistics when both the lockdowns and his addiction began. 

George Floyd faced a tragic death on May 25th, 2020. 

Derek Chauvin was a Minneapolis police officer who was investigating Floyd after a convenience store accused him of purchasing goods with a counterfeit 20-dollar bill. During Chauvin’s investigation, he detained Floyd; through an attempt to restrain him, put Floyd to the ground and placed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, even after Floyd pleaded 27 times, “I can’t breathe.” Paramedics were called to the scene and shortly after getting Floyd admitted and into a hospital bed, he was pronounced deceased. The video footage of how Floyd was restrained was released and went viral. The public caused a big stir; there was a call for action against the officer, the Minneapolis police department, and the officers that stood idly by while Floyd underwent Chauvin’s abuse of force. 

US Attorney Scott made a public announcement that they “…have reached out to community leaders to address the real and legitimate concerns about what happened to Mr. Floyd and to identify positive steps we can take going forward. Please join [me] in a call for unity and peace, not violence, as we work together during this difficult time.” 

The aftermath
Minneapolis activists gathered to protest his death and call for judicial action to the officer(s) involved, resulting in property damage and looting. The most affected area was Lake Street and University Avenue in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis rioting occurred for three nights straight—May 27 through May 29—and destroyed over 1,500 businesses, including restaurants, retail properties, grocery, telecommunications, fuel and auto, and even residences. 

No business went untouched. Big businesses like AutoZone, a Wells Fargo branch, an Apple Store, and a US Postal Office were some of the many businesses destroyed. Smaller “ma and pa” shops couldn’t recover after the rioting with the difficulties they already faced mid-pandemic. The protests and rioting weren’t unreasoned; they were organized as part of the BLM movement-Black Lives Matter. BLM began in 2013 as a reaction from the acquittal of a man, George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American male teenager.

These protests, which began in Minneapolis, then extended world-wide. Activists called for an end to police brutality and racial injustices, raising tension between them and police. The attention and increase of protests received action of oversight from the National Guard at rallies, and states started enacting curfews. After 12 protesters were injured during protesting in Minneapolis, another lawsuit was filed, this time, by the ACLU to the MPLS Police Department.

Police Accountability
Chauvin’s trial, which received national attention, would result in a 22-and-a-half-year sentence, felony charges of second-degree murder, and civil rights indictment. Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are the other two officers convicted in the case. They received charges for their lack of protecting a citizen “free from an officer’s unreasonable use of force,” as well as civil rights indictments, like Chauvin. 

“Today’s verdict recognizes that two police officers violated the Constitution by failing to intervene to stop another officer from killing George Floyd, and three officers violated the Constitution by failing to provide aid to Mr. Floyd in time to prevent his death, the Justice Department will continue to seek accountability for law enforcement officers whose actions, or failure to act, violate their constitutional duty to protect the civil rights of our citizens. George Floyd should be alive today,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. 

27 million dollars was awarded to the family of George Floyd because of the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city of Minneapolis. This is one of the highest amounts settled and paid for in a wrongful death lawsuit regarding police. 

National Action
President Biden recognized George Floyd’s death by placing an executive order. This order passed legislation; the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, banning the use of chokeholds by police. Members of Congress never passed this bill through regular means, and Biden was pressured for quick action. The president is the head of government operations, so he has the ability to pass legislation without congressional approval.

Many other political leaders commented on Floyd’s death. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted, “The peaceful protests that we see in the US … are understandable and more than legitimate. I hope that these peaceful protests won’t slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States.”  EU chief Joseph Borrell, “shocked and appalled,” condemned the “abuse of power” and urged control over the “excessive use of force.” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson called out US racism as “a chronic disease of American society.” US states committed and executed action on police brutality, reform, and restructuration. Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, and 20 other states implemented new legislation specific to the cause of George Floyd’s death. The legislation focused on use of force and redefined its limits, duty to intervene or render medical aid, and policies relating to misconduct reporting and decertification. 

Along with the movements because of Floyd’s murder, legislature was passed enacting restrictions on shooting at fleeing suspects and vehicles after Adam Toledo, an African American 13-year-old, died during a foot chase in Chicago, Illinois. Massachusetts now revokes officer certifications for false arrests, creating, using, or destroying falsified evidence, perpetrating a hate crime, and use of excessive force that results in death. 

Workplace Change
Soon after, the United States even saw changes in the workplace. A recent survey showed 88% of participants said their companies made a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies. DEI-specific roles have more than doubled in the last decade, with greater increases after George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Businesses saw increased representation of Black executives in the leadership team since 2020. In the three months following George Floyd’s murder, DEI job listings increased 123 percent. They also saw improvement on how organizations treated their Black executives. An additional survey revealed that 55% of men and over 60% of women believe they're more likely to speak out about gender and racial equity, sexual harassment, and sexist comments since Floyd’s death. 

Civil rights activists continue making mile-long strides with representation, legislature, and movements for support in the fight for diversity equality. Though George Floyd’s life came to a tragic end, the events surrounding his death will inspire deep societal change(s).



Mason is a skilled professional in the aerospace manufacturing industry, where he specializes in ensuring the seamless production and delivery of critical components. During the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mason demonstrated his compassion and commitment to helping others by serving as a Certified Nursing Assistant. His dedication to making a positive impact extends beyond his professional endeavors, reflecting his strong sense of empathy and altruism.

Mason finds joy in exploring the world around him. He has a deep-seated passion for cars and often embarks on exhilarating road trips, relishing the freedom of the open road and the thrill of new discoveries along the way.