Remembering George Floyd, leaders reflect on event’s impact on the Valley

Community News


COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – On this day last year, May 25, 2020, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

On April 20, 2021, Chauvin was found guilty on all counts he faced over the death of Floyd. In 2021, leaders in Columbus continue to see the impact of the tragedy in the Fountain City. 

The video of George Floyd’s killing sparked a national movement for social justice. The event inspired people across the country to join mass demonstrations and protest against police brutality. 

Last June, the Columbus community gathered for the “My Black has a Purpose” peace rally. The event united city leaders, community members and local activists in support of George Floyd. Attendees held signs with phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” 

One of the city leaders that spoke at the event was Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson. A year later, the Mayor’s Commission on Unity, Diversity and Prosperity is working on a remembrance project through the Equal Justice Initiative to create dialogue within the community. 

“Voices are being heard, people are sharing with one another,” Henderson said. “There are several groups here in Columbus that have set up dialogue groups and they meet on a regular basis. I’ve also participated in dozens of these groups.”

We spoke to Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman about how Floyd’s death has impacted relations between the community and law enforcement. 

“I know as an African American male how tough it is for the African American community to trust law enforcement,” Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman said. “What we’re doing is that we’re building trust one citizen at a time, one household at a time… but we’re going to be persistent even when there is resistance. We’re going to resist in making sure to break those barriers.”

One of the programs that Countryman requires of his deputies is about fair and impartial policing. The program includes comprehensive diversity training, where participants have raw and candid conversation about race in America. 

Countryman says it is especially important for his office to understand the people they serve in order to best protect them. Because of our multicultural society, he says the key to building trust is continuous community involvement and engagement. 

“I think that it was an incredibly tragic event… I think the jury got it right,” Henderson said.” But I think some of the positives that we’re seeing continuing on… I’m hoping they continue on into the future.”

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