From Burlington to Bristol, from Morristown to Putney, Vermonters remembered George Floyd on Tuesday, one year after he died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
“We are done. We are done dying,” said activist C D Mattison at a memorial in Burlington. “And we demand accountability, justice, and the respect and celebration of our humanity.
At City Hall Park, people gathered in silence for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, about the length of time Minneapolis officer Derek Chavin knelt on Floyd’s neck during an arrest outside a convenience store. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder in March.
“Even just kneeling for nine minutes and 29 seconds is challenging,” said state Sen. Keisha Ram. “That experience really allowed me to focus on my body, my emotions, what’s going on for me in reflecting on a year of heightened racial reckoning in this country and the toll that it’s continued to take on Black and brown Americans and Vermonters.”
“During the nine minutes I think it was just a lot of fighting with hope and anger that I still live in a country where people will deliberately slam the metaphorical door on black folks,” said Burlington City Councilor Zoraya Hightower.
Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott signed a proclamation declaring May 25 George Floyd Remembrance Day.
“I’m grateful for Governor Scott and his words for calling it correctly and naming it what it was — it was a murder — and also saying on this day, we should reflect,” said Mattison, who reached out to the governor and state lawmakers with Vermont’s Social Equity Caucus to create the day of remembrance.
Luis Calderin, of the Vermont Professionals of Color Network, has been serving Vermont’s BIPOC community during the pandemic, ensuring people had access to vaccines and COVID-19 education.
“I hope that is not a day that is just remembered but a day that serves as the beginning of generational change to come,” Calderin said.
In Morristown, students rallied against police brutality. “It’s been a lot of emotions, but it’s been a powerful day,” said Stowe High School junior Maddy Ziminski.
A mother from Johnson, Vermont, brought her young children to the protest. “It’s important that we teach our children early on the role that we play in bringing equity and justice to all black, brown, indigenous, and people of color,” she said.
Mattison said that while it’s important to remember George Floyd and how he died, Vermonters should commit to racial equity and social justice every day of the year.
“I don’t want this to be one day. I want this to be an annual day of remembrance because I want us to be committed and challenged throughout every day of the year to making true progress and dealing with racism and the harms that are done to people,” he said.