Exactly one year ago today, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer named Derek Chauvin and three other officers who stood by.
For nine and a half minutes, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck, suffocating him while he pleaded for mercy. Video of the incident was seen by billions of people around the world. The shocking and horrific footage sparked a protest movement that would eventually become the largest demonstration for racial justice in US history.
From Minneapolis to Richmond, from East Coast to West Coast, from big cities to small towns, people of all backgrounds came together to say that enough is enough. For weeks if not months, we watched regular people pour into streets and proclaim that Black Lives Matter. And without fail, police in almost every community met what were often peaceful protests with more brutality, violence, and illegal conduct.
While the protests that were carried out in the honor of George Floyd left a mark on the culture and character of our nation, many institutions remain resistant to change. Black people are still brutalized and murdered by police. Many political leaders are unwilling to upset the status quo by supporting transformative solutions. The law often still protects police from being held accountable for misconduct. There is still so much work to do.
I’ll admit that this time last year I wasn’t planning to run for office. The murder of George Floyd changed that. As a racial justice organizer and President of the Fairfax NAACP, I knew that the reignited movement for Black lives presented an opportunity to win the kind of reforms that usually take years of dedicated activism. We worked locally to secure changes to the first responder system, force more data from police departments, keep armed police officers out of schools, and change the name of Robert E. Lee high school to John R. Lewis high school.
But when we took our movement to statewide leadership, we often hit a brick wall. Virginia’s political class wasn’t interested in the kind of truly structural change that would actually save Black lives from police violence. Many were content to settle with small tweaks to the system. In fact, by the fall, Virginia's General Assembly was voting to provide cash bonuses to cops in our Commonwealth. This was a clear sign that little would change without courageous leadership at the highest levels.
I decided to step up and run for Lt. Governor so Virginians could have the opportunity to vote for someone who is serious about ending racist police violence. Someone who understands that systemic problems require systemic solutions.
I’m the only candidate in the race who has called for the defelonization of all drugs so we can end the over-policing of Black and Brown communities based on drug laws. I’ve proposed assigning duties like traffic stops and mental health crisis intervention to unarmed civil servants rather than police. I’ve consistently advocated for ending Qualified Immunity that protects police from being held accountable for misconduct. I’ve committed to investing in mental health, housing, and education rather than more police, prisons, and incarceration.
George Floyd’s murder was a turning point for Virginia and our entire nation. One year later, our mission remains the same: honor his memory with action, not just words. Reject the status quo in favor of a bold future. Reimagine a system where we no longer lose souls like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, or Michael Brown to racist policing. Break the cycle of harm that dates back to the times when people who look like me were enslaved in America.
I still believe there is nothing we can’t accomplish when we join together and demand change. The energy that powered last year’s historic protests still lives on in racial justice organizers and community activists in practically every neighborhood in this country. The movement we are building here in Virginia is tapping into that energy every day. I am honored to share this moment with you as we fight for the better world we know is possible.
Paid and Authorized by Sean Perryman For Virginia
PO Box 222542, Chantilly, VA 20153
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