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Community members call for more progress

One year after George Floyd's death, school walkout and evening reflection demonstrate pain still felt

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WMS students unite on the lawn outside the school Tuesday, the year anniversary of the death of George Floyd. (Leah Ward/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — On the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — and nearly a year after an initial protest in Worthington over his murder — Worthington community members hosted events Tuesday to demonstrate solidarity with the continued fight for justice.

Two Worthington Middle School eighth-graders organized a walkout Tuesday afternoon. Ahead of the demonstration, they got clearance from school administrators to have participants gather on the front lawn and rally together.

Some people believe that since Derek Chauvin was convicted of George Floyd's murder, then the work is done and protests can stop. Organizers Sammy Simon and Alejandro "Alex" Rodriguez explained why they disagree.

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Alex Rodriguez (left) and Sammy Simon addressed their peers Tuesday and explained why they felt it was important to organize on the year anniversary of George Floyd's death. (Leah Ward/The Globe)

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"We stay protesting because George Floyd is the only Black man killed by police to get justice," Rodriguez said, noting that other victims like Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice have still not had their killers brought to justice.

According to the research group Mapping Police Violence, 181 Black people in the U.S. were killed by police in the year since George Floyd's death.

"I want to see change in the world," Simon added. "I want to see change for people of color."

The boys encouraged their peers to help educate each other about police violence and work together to make change.

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WMS students came prepared for their Tuesday walkout with signs declaring their cause. (Leah Ward/The Globe)

Tuesday evening, the community was invited to a reflection on the last year. Attendees gathered in Slater Park and discussed what they've witnessed locally, shared each other's pain, listened to each other and committed to keep sharing their truth.

Some of those in attendance were Worthington High School students who said it's not uncommon for them to experience racism in various forms, including by being called the n-word by their white peers.

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One student shared that when George Floyd was killed, the school district was doing distance learning. Summer then came and the new school year soon started with hybrid learning, which meant students weren't getting a lot of face time with each other but were interacting frequently over social media channels. Seeing her white peers defend Chauvin on social media for so many months made her fearful to return to in-person learning with them.

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Worthington area citizens gather at Slater Park to remember George Floyd on the one year anniversary of his death. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Adults present added that they are aware of increased suicide attempts by local teenagers of color over the last year, as well as barriers to resources for these kids to get the help they need.

"For a lot of us, it's personal," said organizer Cheniqua Johnson. "We have to move beyond marches and have conversations in community."

Johnson asked the group to take nine minutes and 29 seconds — the amount of time Derek Chauvin's knee was on George Floyd's neck — of silent reflection to think about how to mobilize friends, neighbors and strangers to build a community where Black folks don't fear death by police — starting by inviting people to a planned Juneteenth celebration next month.

At the close of the event, Pastor Friday Omot dismissed the group with a prayer. He told everyone that cultures and colors have inherent worth that comes from God. He prayed that people would be able to transform themselves, their families and their community.

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