Local leaders, activists reflect on one year death anniversary of George Floyd

COLUMBIA (WOLO): Tuesday, May 25th, marks one year since the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old black man killed at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a racial justice movement and demands for police reforms across the country.

Here in the midlands, local leaders and activists are reflecting and looking to move moving forward in the wake of Floyd’s death. 

“It’s a very somber, very heartbreaking day because it brings back so many memories,” said community activist, Deanna Miller-Berry. 

She says the death of George Floyd is a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. 

“His death awakened the community, but also law enforcement that we need to do a better job,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. 

Floyd’s death calling for police reform across the country. 

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said, “I think we always look for opportunities to improve. This certainly caused great reflection on how we’ve policed, and what the community wants to see from a police department or a sheriff’s department.”

Here at home, Miller-Berry says over the last year, while she has seen more involvement in our community, not much else has changed. 

“As far as laws, policy, changes, things to protect black folks, I haven’t seen very much change.”

Such as South Carolina’s hate crime bill, still sitting in the senate, which would add additional penalties to a person committing a crime based off the color of someone’s skin, race, or sex. While Miller-Berry hopes more work will be done to bridge the gap between the community and police, she says we can’t put all the blame on law enforcement. Change starts with lawmakers

“My hope lies within South Carolina voters. Just making sure we elect the right folks in who are going to put policy in place that’s not just only going to protect black people, but all people from any type of police violence or brutality or anything of this magnitude. No mother should ever have to worry about their child walking out of their home and not being able to come back,” said Miller-Berry. 

Sheriff Lott and Chief Holbrook say they’ve been greatly supported by the community this past year, and hope to inspire change in other departments. 

“We’ve been contacted by other sheriff’s offices and  police departments asking us how do you have such a great relationship with your community, what are you doing. So people are modeling themselves after us. Not only do we work together as a law enforcement team, but our community is part of our team also,” says Lott. 

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