Police killed hundreds of people of color after George Floyd fueled calls for racial justice

In the year since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, law enforcement killed hundreds of people of color in the United States. While the guilty Chauvin verdict was a victory for the Floyd family, justice never came for other families of people killed by police.

Those families, and other organizers in Minnesota, are still calling for police accountability.

For the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, we’re bringing you the stories of Minnesota activists and George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd.

Hit play on the podcast player above and read along with the transcript below.

Claire Thornton:

Hey there, I’m Claire Thornton and this is 5 Things. It’s Sunday, May 23rd. These Sunday episodes are special. We’re giving you more from in-depth stories you may have already heard.

Tuesday will be one year since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 and a half minutes. 

George Floyd’s death propelled the Black Lives Matter movement forward at a time when Americans’ lives were also dominated by the pandemic and economic devastation.

Since George Floyd’s death, police have killed hundreds of other people of color in the United States.

While George Floyd became an icon, countless stories of police brutality in Minnesota aren’t getting the same attention.

We’re bringing you one of those stories, from Toshira Garraway. Her family has accused St. Paul police of brutally beating her fiancé Justin Tiegen, who died in 2009.

Here’s Toshira:

Toshira Garraway:

I went from living a normal life, like anybody else, with the father of my child, my fiance, we’re getting ready to be married, I have my engagement ring, we were in the middle of buying a home, and he was murdered. And we went from that to literally a nightmare overnight.

Claire Thornton:

You’ll also hear from Marcia Howard, a Minneapolis teacher who’s been helping organize in the neighborhood where George Floyd was killed.

She represents the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been protesting in the streets for the past year.

And you’ll hear from George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd.

Philonise and the rest of the Floyd family have been grieving amid the protests and calls for justice.

When a Minneapolis jury ruled that Derek Chauvin was guilty of murder and manslaughter, it was a victory for the Floyd family. But Philonise will always mourn his brother.

Philonise Floyd:

I miss having my big brother. To everybody else, this was a case and a cause, but to me that was my big brother.

We played video games together, we prayed with each other, that’s the thing that I miss more than anything, I miss praying with him.

Claire Thornton:

For Toshira Garraway, George Floyd’s death and the hands of Minneapolis police mirrored what happened to her fiancé over a decade ago.

She says she’s tired of police escaping accountability when people die or are killed.

Toshira Garraway:

Since the year 2000 in the last 20, now 21 years, that has been over 470 murders at the hands of law enforcement. And there has only been one conviction in the history of Minnesota and that is a minority man that killed a white woman. And prior to George Floyd there’s been so many more murders that have gone unaddressed, so many more grievances out here in the community that have gone unaddressed, which permitted and allowed what happened to George Floyd.

Claire Thornton:

Toshira says people of color where she lives are tired of law enforcement lying on police reports. She says she knows cops weren’t telling the truth about how Justin Teigen died.

Here’s Toshira’s story – I just want to warn you, it’s pretty graphic. You can fast forward 25 seconds if you want.

Toshira Garraway:

Justin Teigen was brutally brutally beat to death by the St. Paul police and thrown inside a trash dumpster August 19, 2009. When I walked into the mortuary, Justin’s skull was cracked in half, so it was split on the right side, his eyes were like, punched in, his head was the size of a basketball or a watermelon, his head was so big. It was clear that a beating had taken place, he also had dog bites on his body, he just had lacerations everywhere, bruising everywhere, it was very horrific to see and that image plays in my mind as I try to mend my life back together and move forward.

After we seen Justin beat up like this, we had questions because originally, when Justin was pulled over, we did not know he got pulled over by police, they never told us that, they told us that he was in an accident, and missing from the scene of the accident, we later found out that he was initially pulled over by the St. Paul police.

Claire Thornton:

Police say Justin Teigen died when a garbage truck came to empty the dumpster. But Toshira knows what she saw that day when she looked at Justin’s body in the mortuary. She said she knows what the police said can’t be true.

Marcia Howard is a teacher and activist who’s been organizing at the street intersection where George Floyd was killed in a neighborhood called Bryant.

For months, the roads there were closed.

Since George Floyd’s death, the spot has been a fulcrum point for protesters and other people in the community who want to commemorate what happened.

Here’s Marcia:

Marcia Howard:

I think what people should know is that it wasn’t a coincidence that Minnesota has become the byword for systemic injustice. George – George Perry Floyd Jr. is known throughout the world. Why here? Why now? Because we’re in Bryant neighborhood… What people don’t understand is that this neighborhood has dealt with overpolicing, …. This neighborhood had to deal with the gang taskforce, They were terrorized by the police, they were robbed by the police, …. Because we have always been overpoliced, and over criminalized, picked on, if you will. 

George Floyd was killed about 260 steps from my door. Cup was the store that I would run to when I needed avocado or I was in the middle of cooking and I’d be able to keep things on the stove as I ran to get an ingredient. This is my neighborhood, the person who filmed his murder was my student.

Claire Thornton:

When protests began after George Floyd’s death, Marcia wasn’t prepared for all the tension and violence that unfolded.

Marcia Howard:

So when the uprising occurred and the protesters gathered and the intersection of 38th and Chicago, I heard the sound of George Floyd all through the night, I handed out water, I handed out face masks, and I joined them, yet when the national guard rolled up my street, with the MPD, shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at my neighbors, at my students, at the people gathered in peaceful protest, something in me just broke. There were military helicopters above my house. And you gotta understand – I am a veteran, I was in the Marine Corps – I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything but be Black and be angry. And I have been out here since. 

Claire Thornton:

For Philonise Floyd, George Floyd was his brother before his name was associated with the movement for racial justice.

Philonise Floyd:

I miss having my big brother. To everybody else, this was a case and a cause, but to me that was my big brother, somebody that I grew up with, ate banana mayonnaise sandwiches with, slept in the bed with.

We played video games together, we prayed with each other, that’s the thing that I miss more than anything, I miss praying with him.

Claire Thornton:

This year, when Philonise demanded justice for his brother, he was demanding justice for other people killed by police too.

Like Justice Teigen.

Here’s Toshira Garraway again:

Toshira Garraway:

Our loved ones were murdered in the exact same way, unjustly. It may not have been the same tactic, may not have been knee on the neck, it might have been gunshots, it might have been a beating, but the unjust part, yeah, I’m just praying that it all comes out.

It hurts bad because I want people to say Justin Teigen’s name all over the world the same way they do for George Floyd. 

[inaudible] wants the same for [inaudible] Smith, Cordale Handy, Marcus Golden, Kobe Heisler, Travis Jordan, Demetrius Hill, [inaudible], Philip Quinn, Brian Quinones, Isak Aden, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile.

Claire Thornton:

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stood trial for murder and manslaughter in the case of George Floyd this spring.

The trial took a toll on the Floyd family.

Philonise Floyd:

It’s been devastating for the past year for us to just sit down and have to think about losing my brother and watching him over and over while we’re in court – lose his life, every day. 

Claire Thornton:

Relief, happiness, shock, triumph. Those are just some of the feelings that family members and protesters felt when the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts.

Philonise Floyd:

When he read that verdict – guilty, guilty, guilty, – it felt good, it felt like we had just won the championship, that’s what George would say. 

I was crying, I was crying, it was tears of joy. But at the same time, I felt that we got accountability served on a platter that time. 

Claire Thornton:

For Toshira Garraway and hundreds of other families whose loved ones have been killed by police in Minnesota, that moment of relief never came. They’re still demanding answers.

But in the case of George Floyd, the truth finally came out for them.

Here’s Toshira:

Toshira Garraway:

How much do you expect the community and the hurting people to take? You keep killing our people. For no reason, for no just cause, if you’re life wasn’t in imminent danger, you’re not supposed to take that person’s life. 

He didn’t deserve to die like that. Nobody deserves to die like that, nobody. And it’s been 11 years. And that haunts me, you know it haunts me, to see a human being get killed like that, and I just wanted the truth, like anybody else that loves somebody would want. 

I had an entire life planned with him. And they stole that for me.

I don’t want them to be able to isolate this issue. The world got to see it, and that’s what I prayed for, I prayed for the truth to come out. And it finally did.

Claire Thornton:

Much of the audio you just heard comes from a larger USA TODAY project called Boots on the Ground, a documentary film by Jarrad Henderson.

The film tells the story of how the Bryant neighborhood and the Twin Cities have been responding to what happened to George Floyd.

It features reporting from N’dea Yancey Bragg and Suzette Hackney.

I’ve included links to the full video in the episode notes.

If you liked this episode of 5 Things, write us a review on Apple Podcasts and tell us what you liked about it.

When you write us a review, we’ll give you a shoutout on the show.

I want to say thank you to Shannon Green, for her help editing this episode.

And thank you for listening.

Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning with 5 things you need to know for Monday.

I’m Claire Thornton. I’ll see you next time. Until then, keep up with me on Twitter, where I’m at claire_thornto.

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