Houston-area activists reflect on what has changed since George Floyd's death

Erica Simon Image
Saturday, September 26, 2020
What has changed since George Floyd's death?
People of all backgrounds are coming together, but what has changed since George Floyd's death and what still needs to happen?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's cell phone video seared in the minds of Americans. A Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes while the Houston-native called for his mama and cried "I can't breathe."

"You open your computer and you're confronted by the deaths of Black men. I think it's heartbreaking for a lot of people," Houstonian Lisa Balabanlilar said.

Balabanlilar is right, the pain and emotion we all felt watching that tape went on to birth a movement. Professional athletes, from the NBA to the NFL, said enough is enough, and corporations put out statements and proclaimed Black lives matter.

Here in Houston, more than 60,000 people gathered for a march downtown to protest the killing of Floyd. Hip-hop artist and community advocate Trae Tha Truth was one of the organizers.

RELATED: George Floyd family members join 60,000 protesters at Houston march

Eyewitness News asked him about the progress made since the protest.

"I think people are able to see the power of unity. The power of what standing up and fighting can do," Trae said.

Defense attorney Eddrea McKnight represented a number of young protesters who were arrested at that march. Although the protesters had their charges thrown out, McKnight believes some of the same problems remain.

"I'm in the courthouse everyday. I watch body-worn cameras everyday, from the way the police interact with people who look like me, to the way sentences are handed down to people who look like me, to recommendations that are made by prosecutors for people who look like me. There's absolutely a difference that cannot be ignored," McKnight explained.

Judson Robinson III with the Houston Area Urban League believes more people are opening their eyes and admitting both systemic and blatant racism still exists.

"We have heightened awareness. We have a degree of sensitivity for Black issues. We have increased dialogue between law enforcement and the Black community," Robinson said.

What happened in Minneapolis prompted people to seek justice for others, like Breonna Taylor, Vanessa Guillen and Rayshard Brooks.

Lawmakers were also forced to look at police reform. "The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act" is stalled in the Senate, but was passed by the U.S. House. It aims to combat police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias in policing.

In Louisville, Kentucky, "Breonna's Law" was passed, which bans no-knock warrants.

SEE MORE: A timeline of events related to the death of Breonna Taylor

Trae said that's proof we all have to vote.

"People think voting is just the president. The presidents don't make the laws. We have to get the people who making the laws out of our favor, out of office."

We've come a mighty long way since the civil rights movement, but the fight continues.

Everyone we spoke to for this story said the good news is, more races, backgrounds and types of people are joining together. That's what it will take, not only so that we never have another George Floyd situation, but so we can have true liberty and justice for all.

"We need to let people hear each other. If we want one nation, then we're going to have to walk in each other's shoes," Robinson said.

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