After former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes, Black Lives Matter protests drove people of all races and creeds out of their houses and into the streets to stand against police brutality and stand with the Black community.
As people watched the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man proclaim, "I can't breathe," during Chauvin's fatal arrest, allies promised to close the equality gap between Black and white Americans by supporting Black-owned businesses, donating to organizations, and fixing the policing issue.
However, two years later, the momentum for social and systemic change has waned and the rhetoric surrounding policing has been diluted largely due to political leadership.
President Joe Biden went from urging Congress to pass sweeping police reform during his bid for the Oval office to now pushing for an increased police presence.
“To every governor, every mayor, every county official, the need is clear, my message is clear: … Spend this money now that you have,” Biden said in a Rose Garden speech earlier this month.“Use these funds we made available to you to prioritize public safety. Do it quickly, before the summer, when crime rates typically surge. Taking action today is going to save lives tomorrow. So use the money. Hire the police officers.”
Biden's attempt to overhaul police tactics with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act failed to make it past the Senate, and he has yet to use executive action to implement police reform two years after his promises.
With upcoming midterm elections and increasing crime rates applying pressure, the administration has begun to shift its messaging to pro-police.
“Folks, the answer is not to abandon the streets. It’s not to choose between safety and equal justice," Biden said in a statement earlier this month. "And we should agree: It’s not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them with the resources, the training they need to protect our communities and themselves, and restore trust among the police and the people.”
Amara Enyia of the Movement for Black Lives told the Washington Post, “We’re now contending with elected officials who are now defaulting to the same narrative that we know does not offer any solutions to the issues that we face, meaning it is a lot easier to just default to the knee-jerk ‘we need more police on the streets’ argument,”
Enyia added, “It’s a reaction that takes absolutely no thought and that doesn’t take into account what the research shows about the conditions that create safety. But it’s just something that fits neatly within a campaign cycle.”
The administration argues that police departments can be bolstered and reformed simultaneously. While Biden's Department of Justice has implemented a ban on chokeholds, began requiring agents to sport body cameras, and limited the use of no-knock arrests, these changes only apply to federal officers and don't cover state and local law enforcement.
On the two-year anniversary of Floyd's death, civil rights leaders remain frustrated with the little change that has come from above. Nevertheless, we will continue to say his name, and George Floyd's legacy will live on.