JUDY WOODRUFF: His death shook the nation.
PROTESTERS: George Floyd!
JUDY WOODRUFF: His life became a global symbol for racial injustice and police brutality.
PROTESTERS: I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, one year after the police killing of George Floyd, where does America go from here?
JUDGE PETER CAHILL, Hennepin County, Minnesota: "We, the jury, in the above entitled matter, find the defendant guilty."
JUDY WOODRUFF: A former Minneapolis police officer has been convicted of murdering Floyd.
PHILONISE FLOYD, Brother of George Floyd: Today, we are able to breathe again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But as police killings have continued across the country in recent weeks, we examine the lasting effects of systemic racism, the lingering distrust between communities of color and law enforcement, and the trauma that remains for so many.
This is "Race Matters: America After George Floyd."
Welcome to this "PBS NewsHour" special.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
It was one year ago that George Floyd's slow and agonizing death was captured on cell phone video.
The footage showed Floyd pinned beneath Officer Derek Chauvin's knee for more than nine minutes, unable to breathe.
That video sparked widespread outrage.
Protesters took to the streets in cities around the world, demanding justice and new restrictions on police.
PROTESTERS: Black Lives Matter!
JUDY WOODRUFF: Many police and their unions fought back.
They distanced themselves from Derek Chauvin, and argued that they routinely respond to dangerous situations where they must make split-second decisions.
MICHAEL O'MEARA, President, New York Police Benevolent Association: This isn't stained by someone in Minneapolis.
It's still got a shine on it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Last month, after his own police chief testified against him, Chauvin was convicted of murder.
But the debate over how to address police violence continues.
Over the past year, cities and states have enacted laws that ban choke holds, expand the use of body cameras, and require that police intervene if one of their fellow officers is using excessive force.
And roughly 1,500 police reform bills are still pending in state legislatures.
REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): I rise to support this bill JUDY WOODRUFF: At the federal level, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has stalled in Congress, after passing the House in a largely party-line vote.
It aims to limit use of force, increase accountability, and improve police training.
Meanwhile, the questions around excessive force haven't ceased.
Since Floyd's death, more than 900 people have been shot and killed by police, according to a Washington Post database.
And recent studies have found Black Americans are more than 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.
Researchers and community leaders say persistent racial bias and a history of discrimination are a big part of this disparity.
But police officers are rarely prosecuted.
Only about 1 percent of police are arrested for fatal shootings each year, and about a third of those are convicted of any charge.
So, while some are hoping for justice in the courtroom, others say, to truly address racism in this country, much more still needs to change.
Tonight, we look at how the country is grappling with racial inequities through the lens of three cities.
We will discuss what has changed over the last year, and what still needs to be done to create a more equitable future.
Amna Nawaz begins our special coverage in Minneapolis, the home of George Floyd.
AMNA NAWAZ: Before the trial, before the verdict, before the protests and the marches, before this latest debate over policing reform and the racial reckoning across America, before all of that, there was this, the corner of 38th and Chicago on the South Side of Minneapolis, the place where George Floyd was murdered and where a movement was born.
MARCIA HOWARD, Community Activist: Well, good morning.
AMNA NAWAZ: It's 8:00 in the morning at George Floyd Square.
Marcia Howard has already been here for hours.
MARCIA HOWARD: Let's just be gentle with each other, so we can be dangerous together.
AMNA NAWAZ: She's a fixture here, watching over this now sacred ground.
A year ago, Howard was teaching English at Roosevelt High School just down the road.
Her Instagram was filled with pies and flowers and carefully curated scenes.
Friends jokingly called her Marcia Stewart.
PROTESTERS: George Floyd!
AMNA NAWAZ: That all changed when George Floyd was murdered.
MARCIA HOWARD: I am a retired Marine.
I joined during a war.
And the idea that we would have the military come up my street and the MPD and the National Guard form a Phalanx right here, precisely right here, broke something inside of me that had once been whole.
AMNA NAWAZ: It broke something, you say.
MARCIA HOWARD: It broke something.
I couldn't eat.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't do anything.
And so, if I was awake, I was out here.
And because I was always awake, I was always out here.
PROTESTER: Say his name!
PROTESTERS: George Floyd!
AMNA NAWAZ: Over the last year, this site has evolved from protest zone to a place of mourning to a movement for change.
Now barricaded, it's run by the community itself, demanding reform before the barriers come down.
MARCIA HOWARD: George Floyd Square is now a memorial, but it also -- it signifies that this intersection stands for us saying, no more.
We're done -- we're done with status quo, when status quo is the summary execution of Black people and brown people and indigenous people.
AMNA NAWAZ: For a year, the world's attention had been trained on Minneapolis, the viral video of Floyd's death, protests and violence, calls to abolish police.
Events, at times, caught outsiders by surprise, but some here called it inevitable.
JUSTIN ELLIS, Journalist: A majority white population created conditions that, at a certain point, you say, well, if my life is -- if my life means nothing, if the life of my family means nothing, if you're going to not listen to us, then the only way that I'm going to get you to listen is to get in your face, is to make you very uncomfortable, and start asking very uncomfortable questions.
AMNA NAWAZ: Journalist Justin Ellis, born and raised here, is writing a book on being born Black in Minneapolis.
The Twin Cities have some of the nation's worst racial disparities.
For median household income and homeownership, the gaps between white and Black families here are some of the widest in America.
Ellis says racist policies and outcomes are hidden in Minnesota beneath the perception that the state welcomes everyone, regardless of race.
JUSTIN ELLIS: When you think about George Floyd, a man who came from Houston, who came here because there were specific programs that people had told him about that could help you turn your life around, here, I think about my own family.
I think about all the different refugees who have come here over the years.
And that's the thing that, to me, always just felt really damning, is that Minnesota perpetuates this idea that this is going to be a place that will be safe and that this will be a place that will be open and inviting.
AMNA NAWAZ: And in reality?
JUSTIN ELLIS: And the reality of that is that it is only those things if you are white.
AMNA NAWAZ: That's a reality 23-year-old Isak Douah has lived his whole life.
The son of immigrants, he grew up just miles from George Floyd Square.
ISAK DOUAH, Community Activist: In Minnesota, like, the most racist experiences I have had have been with people that I'm sure would argue that they're a liberal.
They might have like a -- the Black Lives Matter bumper sticker, but they harbor intense resentment for African-American people.
AMNA NAWAZ: Isak's father, Remi, is from the Ivory Coast, his mother, Thorunn, from Iceland.
They came to the U.S. in the 1980s, met at the University of Minnesota, and had Isak in 1998.
Together they learned that raising him in America would be different than in their home countries.
REMI DOUAH, Father of Isak Douah: So you don't come and say, I'm going to raise a Black child.
You say I am going to raise a child, a human being that will -- and you do your best to raise that human being to function in society.
It's society that forces you to see your child as Black and white.
AMNA NAWAZ: As Isak grew, so did his mother's fears, especially with each new video of police violence against black men.
The last year, she says, has been hell.
THORUNN BJARNADOTTIR, Mother of Isak Douah: And mothers of Black children, we're all terrified.
It feels sometimes like a Russian roulette.
Whose son is it going to be next?
I somehow thought the George Floyd murder would be the end of it, but that that was the -- fulfilled it, and that was it.
And so, just before the verdict, they killed another one.
And Daunte Wright, I -- he looks like my son.
And so you wonder, will he be next?
AMNA NAWAZ: The killings haunt Thorunn.
But they have propelled Isak to the front lines, organizing and protesting since he was 16.
There was the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police after a confrontation in 2015 and, less than a year later, the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb.
After George Floyd's death, Isak went straight to the square.
It shook him, he said, to his core.
ISAK DOUAH: I shed tears for the first time in years, because, in ways, I felt like we failed him.
But a lot of the reasons I'm fighting so hard for George Floyd's legacy and -- is because it's for Castile and for Jamar.
Just in my short life in Minneapolis, like, I witnessed a whole lot of nasty bodycam footage from Minnesota police departments.
AMNA NAWAZ: For John Thompson the footage of his friend Philando Castile shook him into action.
STATE REP. JOHN THOMPSON (D-MN): Friend of Philando Castile: I never protested or none of this stuff, like -- you know?
And then you murder my friend.
I promise Philando.
I'm looking at his casket.
And I'm saying, man, I'm going to make sure this state remember your name.
AMNA NAWAZ: He left work as a machinist, ran for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and won in a landslide.
His focus as a lawmaker?
The Democrat-controlled House in Minnesota has passed measures limiting traffic stops and requiring the quick release of bodycam footage.
But they're stuck in the Republican-run Senate.
STATE REP. JOHN THOMPSON: There's going to be another dead man this year by the hands of law enforcement.
And it's going to be because of this building that we're sitting in right now.
The opposition, it's people who honestly don't live in the neighborhoods, and so they can't believe it's happening, or they don't want to believe it's happening, or they just don't care.
Have we made any progress since Philando's murder?
AMNA NAWAZ: Back at George Floyd Square, progress is clearly defined.
Marcia Howard and others have drafted 24 demands for officials, what they call Justice Resolution 001.
MARCIA HOWARD: This is not some grandstanding or a vanity project.
We're not a bunch of zealots standing on a barricade trying to burn down the world.
We're attempting to effect change, to address historical injustices.
AMNA NAWAZ: There's been progress on some things on the list, Derek Chauvin's conviction, economic investment in the neighborhood and an independent probe of the Minneapolis police.
But until all of the demands are met, Marcia says, the barricades stay up.
MARCIA HOWARD: What we say is, injustice is what closed these streets.
Shouldn't justice be the only thing that opens them?
AMNA NAWAZ: While Marcia and others reimagine community at the square, others in Minneapolis are reimagining policing in the city.
In November, residents will likely vote on a measure to replace the city police department with the Department of Public Safety, moving away from some traditional policing methods.
The debate comes as Minneapolis, like other cities, sees a spike in violent crime.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey says that increase is among the reasons why the city shouldn't defund the police.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo declined our interview request, but Sasha Cotton, who runs the city's Office of Violence Prevention, agreed to sit down with us.
Her office, launched in 2018, works to interrupt violence by training and deploying teams to de-escalate conflicts.
The city more than doubled their budget for 2021, some of it from funds earmarked for the police department.
SASHA COTTON, Director, Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention: If the goals of the city are to innovate and create public safety in a new way, the budget will need to long-term reflect that.
AMNA NAWAZ: But city budgets are finite items, right?
SASHA COTTON: Yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: You have $164 million going to police and only $7.5 million for you.
Some folks would say that's an easy place folks - - funds can be reallocated.
SASHA COTTON: And I wouldn't necessarily disagree with them.
If we stay disproportionately budgeted compared to our other public safety partners, then our work will stay incrementally smaller than what they are able to do as well.
AMNA NAWAZ: Budgets are one thing, but people here in Minneapolis say what will take longer and be harder to address is what you can't measure, the trauma Black residents carry.
CHERIE HANSON, Canopy Mental Health & Consulting: All of a sudden, I just, like, went -- I just spiraled down.
AMNA NAWAZ: Last year, Cherie Hanson formed a practice focusing on therapy for people of color.
When they started seek patients shortly after George Floyd's death, they were flooded with requests.
Hanson says almost all of her clients talk about race.
CHERIE HANSON: If you put yourself around Black folk who live in this city, there is this air of fear underneath, like you can feel it.
Like, you can walk in the room and you can just taste it almost.
It's like an underlying fear.
It's underlying anticipation of something bad happening.
AMNA NAWAZ: For years, Isak carried the weight of that trauma without fully knowing it.
He ignored his mother's push to therapy.
ISAK DOUAH: Being a young, like, African American man, like, you're socialized to be a protector and strong and rough and tough.
I think it's seen as kind of like a sign of weakness.
AMNA NAWAZ: But last year, at George Floyd Square, he saw a man shot and killed.
His mom pushed him again.
ISAK DOUAH: That's something that's going to stick with me really for the rest of my life.
I decided this time not to be stubborn about it after she said that.
Like, maybe since you feel so numb to all this, that's even more reason to go.
What's up, you all?
This is the "2 Keep It A Buck" podcast.
AMNA NAWAZ: He's trying to pay it forward, starting a podcast focused on mental health and evangelizing therapy among skeptical friends.
ISAK DOUAH: People are like: I have been through so much.
I'm so strong.
I know I don't need therapy.
AMNA NAWAZ: That's what they tell you?
ISAK DOUAH: You know what I'm saying?
You're just like: Well, it sounds kind of like you're the person who needs it the most, right?
Like, if you have been through all this, and you're -- you're just good, like, that's -- that's where I felt like I was at.
I was like, I don't need this.
And then you sit down in that chair, and suddenly you're like, man, wow, I'm really messed up.
Like, this has been a really traumatic experience growing up in Minneapolis.
AMNA NAWAZ: Just steps from George Floyd Square, Isak's father, Remi, has his own way of healing that trauma.
Almost every day for the past year, he's come here to the Say Their Name Cemetery.
It's a memorial to more than 100 lives lost in police killings.
He sets up chairs and waits.
How often does someone come sit next to you?
REMI DOUAH: You will be surprised.
AMNA NAWAZ: Really?
REMI DOUAH: Yes.
AMNA NAWAZ: And they just start talking?
REMI DOUAH: They start talking.
AMNA NAWAZ: What do they say?
REMI DOUAH: Some just cry.
And I just listen.
You have so much on your chest, you want to talk to another human being.
And if you can do it here, it helps you than trying to take that all the way back to the square, and then to your home, and not talking to anyone.
AMNA NAWAZ: As they talk, Remi says he always asks three questions: What makes you happy?
When's the last time you were happy?
And this: REMI DOUAH: The last question is, what can we do to get you to the space where you want to be happy?
And that's when they start smiling.
And that's what I want them to live with, a smile on their faces, because we need to celebrate those guys who are in a special club of their own.
George would like to smile, not to feel sad, because he was a joyful, joyful guy.
AMNA NAWAZ: At the square bearing George Floyd's name, Marcia Howard mans her post at the western barrier.
She will be back in a classroom one day, she says, but, right now, she's right where she needs to be.
MARCIA HOWARD: I think about the fight that we're fighting now, and it was my mother's fight and my grandmother's fight.
No one should rest until justice is served.
The city killed a man.
They did wrong.
And they have an opportunity to make it right.
That's what we're waiting for.
AMNA NAWAZ: Are you hopeful they will do what you think it will take to make it right?
MARCIA HOWARD: Yes, I am.
Where there's people, there's power.
Fundamentally, we are the city, and the city is us.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The murder of George Floyd ignited those enormous waves of anger, frustration and demands for change.
But the movement was growing well before that, with the deaths of other Black people at the hands of the police.
That included Michael Brown, who died in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
Yamiche Alcindor looks at what's changed since Brown's death and whether St. Louis can overcome its long, fraught history around race.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It was a cloudy day on August 9, 2014, here in Ferguson, Missouri, when a Black unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed here on Canfield Drive by a white police officer, Darren Wilson.
Out of that, a protest movement grew that lasted months.
They demanded that the officer be charged.
Ultimately, the officer was not charged.
Other changes did come.
Ferguson got a new mayor and a new police chief.
In St. Louis city, a new prosecutor, also a new mayor.
But people want to see more.
They hope that St. Louis, which has a history of racism and violence against Black people, that this city can learn lessons that may help the rest of the nation.
It was the launching point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the gateway to the West, the home of Budweiser and the Cardinals, St. Louis, a city steeped in American history.
But the long legacy of racism here continues to shape the city.
DHATI KENNEDY, Son of East St. Louis Massacre Survivor: We're approaching Bond Avenue, where a lot of the Black families lived.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In 1917, Dhati Kennedy's family was living on the other side of the Mississippi River in East St. Louis, Illinois.
At the time, it was an industrial city experiencing tensions between Black and white residents.
That year, Black laborers were recruited to work in one of the city's major factories after the white workers went on strike.
DHATI KENNEDY: Rumors were spread that these Negroes are coming from the South, and they're going to take our jobs, they're going to steal our way of life.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In July, that hostility turned deadly, and into one of the largest race riots in U.S. history.
DHATI KENNEDY: White mobs moved into the neighborhoods, firebombed a lot of the houses.
And they would stand around the house and wait for somebody to run out so they could shoot and kill them.
If you were caught on the street, you were lynched.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Dhati's grandfather went missing during the massacre and was presumed dead.
But despite the police and mobs blocking two bridges to safety, the rest of the Kennedy family escaped.
DHATI KENNEDY: My grandmother was able to get her family, my father, our uncles, and all of them to safety across the Mississippi River on a raft that they built and fashioned out of burnt-out doors and everything wooden they could find.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Dhati says this legacy of dehumanizing and driving out Black people didn't end with what he calls the East St. Louis race war.
Why do you think it's so important to keep that history alive, when we think about what happened in Ferguson, what happened to George Floyd, what's happening to African Americans and Black people all over this country?
DHATI KENNEDY: Well, the massacre itself was fueled by a trope about Black men: They're rapists.
And they're lazy.
That idea, in many, many different forms, still exists today.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: No one really knows just how many people died in the massacre here at East St. Louis.
But for the people who were lucky enough to make it out, a legacy of violence and racism followed them.
Across the river, many made a new home in St. Louis in a neighborhood called Mill Creek Valley.
WALTER JOHNSON, Author, "The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States": To me, it represents the depth of the history in St. Louis.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Harvard historian Walter Johnson is a Missouri native and author of the 2020 book "The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States."
The book details the city's role as a center first of Native American removal and later of exploitation, violence, and the forced migration of Black people within the city and beyond.
Following the massacre, Mill Creek Valley became a hub for Black homes, businesses and culture.
WALTER JOHNSON: It's about 500 acres; 20,000 people lived there, 800 business and cultural institutions.
Mill Creek Valley was destroyed by urban redevelopment and real estate speculation.
But I think they left five or six buildings standing.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: It's now filled with highways, municipal services and many empty lots.
As Black people were cleared out of that neighborhood, many were forced north into the Pruitt-Igoe housing project.
WALTER JOHNSON: Pruitt-Igoe was one of the largest housing projects in the United States, and certainly the most famous and the most notorious.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Johnson took us to the site, where 33 11-story buildings once stood.
It is now an overgrown lot.
Pruitt-Igoe was advertised as safe, affordable housing for the city's working class and poor.
But Johnson says it was neglected almost immediately.
Over the years, it became a place to unfairly target Black people through experimental policing.
WALTER JOHNSON: The experiment was to pull over, to randomly target as many young Black people as they could, and then to identify those who they thought might become offenders and arrest them on pretextuous charges.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: What you're describing then is racial profiling tied to housing.
WALTER JOHNSON: Absolutely.
MAN: Raw sewage bubbles out of the ground like a malevolent spring.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: With a focus on policing, instead of maintenance, conditions at the housing project deteriorated.
And after just two decades of occupation, it was demolished.
Once again, Black people were pushed further north, some beyond city limits, to Ferguson, Missouri.
Walter Johnson argues, Black people here have been regularly exploited through disinvestment and police harassment in the form of fines and fees, all while major tax subsidies are given to corporations in this community, like Emerson Electric.
WALTER JOHNSON: How is it that you have a community, a city, where the police are farming Black motorists for traffic tickets, when you have a $24 billion corporation in the city limits?
PROTESTER: Hands up!
PROTESTERS: Don't shoot!
PROTESTER: Hands up!
PROTESTERS: Don't shoot!
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In 2014, those decades of segregation, police harassment, and violence against Black people came to a head when Michael Brown was killed by officer Darren Wilson.
Protesters, activists, neighbors poured into the streets, demanding change.
The protests lasted months.
PROTESTERS: No justice, no peace!
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But what has actually changed since then?
MAN: Get back!
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Five years ago, the Department of Justice entered into a consent decree with the city of Ferguson.
It's an attempt to reform the police department's policies and practices.
As of 2019, traffic stops of Black people are down nearly 50 percent from 2014, and ticketing of Black residents is down 60 percent.
And over the past five years, progressive Black candidates won a handful of races, most recently for St. Louis mayor.
TISHAURA JONES, Mayor of St. Louis, Missouri: I, Tishaura O. Jones... YAMICHE ALCINDOR: A native of North Side St. Louis, Tishaura Jones is the city's first Black woman mayor.
TISHAURA JONES: The activists see this election as their chance to finally have someone on the inside that will not only work with them and listen to them, but also implement some of the strategies that they have been calling for.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: One of the people who kept that momentum going is Kayla Reed.
KAYLA REED, Action St. Louis: We're still dealing with and learning the names of folks who are being killed by police.
We're still seeing most instances of that not resulting in any sort of charges or conviction.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In the months following Michael Brown's killing, Reed threw herself into organizing.
She eventually started Action St. Louis, a grassroots group that advocates for racial justice.
What's the connection you see between Michael Brown and George Floyd?
KAYLA REED: The movement that was sparked in Ferguson, I see remnants of it and legacy of it and continuations of it and new iterations of it happening in these other cities.
And I think that we're still in that movement.
We're still perfecting the demands.
We're still perfecting the policies.
And we're going after power now.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: She is confident, though, that these new political leaders are a helpful step in that transformation.
KAYLA REED: The win is not representation.
The win is action.
It's not just getting someone in the seat.
It's ensuring that, once they're in their seat, that they do the things that we know are going to transform our communities.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In the month that Mayor Jones has been in office, she's defunded the Workhouse, a medium-security facility long criticized for its inhumane conditions.
And she reallocated 2 percent of the police department's budget to social workers, counselors, and a housing fund.
It's a move that some have criticized, as the city continues to struggle with violent crime.
WOMAN: Homicide numbers in the city of St. Louis paint a bleak picture.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Last year, the city saw its highest murder rate in 50 years.
TISHAURA JONES: Number one, we need to declare gun violence as a public health crisis, but, also, crime and violence doesn't stop at our borders.
We have to look at the entire region, which also includes our neighbors to the east in East St. Louis, our neighbors to the west and north in St. Louis County.
We have to bring all the people to the table, because our destinies are linked and shared, and we have to address this as such.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But in the years since Michael Brown's death, police killings in St. Louis haven't gone down.
One report says that, of the 100 largest cities, St. Louis police have killed the most people per capita since 2013.
Mayor Jones' 13-year-old son is a reminder of just how much work still needs to be done.
TISHAURA JONES: We were having a conversation about what the mayor does.
And when I got to the police, he says: "Oh, well, mommy will be over the police?"
I said: "Yes."
He said: "Well, that means I will be safe."
And it hit me like a ton of bricks, because it gave him a false sense of security, in my opinion, that he thought he would be safe because I became mayor.
KAYLA REED: St. Louis has a high poverty rate, St. Louis has a high violence rate, and St. Louis has a high police violence rate.
We have to address the fact that, where violence happens, there's a lack of resources, there's historical neglect, and there's complete disillusionment with the system.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Jones is hoping a $500 million infusion of federal stimulus money for things like housing, broadband and work force development will also help address the lack of resources.
She and others find hope in St. Louis' long history of activism.
Throughout the 20th century, Black demonstrators led protests over fair pay, working conditions and hiring practices.
Dhati Kennedy believes, to be successful today, there are important lessons from that past.
DHATI KENNEDY: It just can't be legislative or just political.
It has to be grassroots, but it can't just be grassroots.
It's going to have to be a lot of things to come together.
Put all of those cogs in the wheel together, and we can move forward.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: And to those seeking change here in St. Louis and around the country, Kayla Reed says it will take a lifetime commitment.
KAYLA REED: This is a long-term work plan that we all have to commit to.
There is real human cost to getting this right.
And we have to get this right, because we're going to keep losing people if we don't.
JUDY WOODRUFF: When George Floyd died last May, there had already been another high-profile police killing in Louisville, Kentucky, one that gave rise to protests as well.
The case highlighted that city's longstanding racial divisions, and became a national rallying cry in its own right.
John Yang reports.
JOHN YANG: It was about 12:40 on the morning of March 13, 2020, that Louisville police used a battering ram to burst into an apartment in this complex belonging to a 26-year-old emergency room technician named Breonna Taylor.
The officers were executing a no-knock warrant, but the warrant wasn't for Taylor or anyone else who was in the apartment.
Taylor's boyfriend thought someone was breaking in.
He grabbed his gun, fired a single shot.
The police fired back.
When it was all over, Taylor lay dying on her hallway floor, shot several times.
In the year since, Louisville has grieved, protested and debated policing changes.
One thing it hasn't done, many residents say, is heal.
After a long investigation by the state attorney general, no one was charged with Breonna Taylor's death.
But now the federal Justice Department is investigating the Louisville police, looking to see if there's been a pattern and practice of discrimination and abuse.
Many residents here say it's about time.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT, Community Activist: You two come up here.
JOHN YANG: Shameka Parrish-Wright may feel the weight of Louisville on her shoulders when she wakes up in the morning, but her days start with her duties as a mom.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: All right, I got a few meetings, and then I will be back.
JOHN YANG: She's spent years working as an advocate for criminal justice reform.
But the killing of Breonna Taylor changed everything for Parrish-Wright and for Louisville.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: I have three daughters in their 20s.
One of them went to school with Breonna.
And so, for them, it hit home.
And the first night of the protests, we were at my table.
And we said -- I said, "This could have been any of you."
JOHN YANG: As cities across the country rose up to protest police brutality and systemic racism last summer, she felt called to lead the movement in her city.
In May 2020, just days after George Floyd's death, Taylor family attorneys released 911 tapes from the night of Taylor's death, sparking protests over what many Black residents said was a long history of police misconduct and racial profiling.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: They couldn't drag her down and say, oh, she had warrants, oh, she was this criminal, and they couldn't do that to her.
And so I think that that's what invigorated people to say, if we let this happen to her, and she's supposed to be safe at home, she's an essential worker, and she dies in her home, then none of us are safe.
And then George Floyd sent us overboard.
JOHN YANG: Parrish-Wright has been a guiding force in this downtown park, the protests' center of gravity.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: We built this as a place for people to bring all that energy.
JOHN YANG: Officially named Jefferson Square Park, it sits directly across from Louisville's Metro Hall.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: We called it Injustice Square because it was -- it's surrounded by where justice is supposed to happen.
JOHN YANG: There is no justice, Parrish-Wright says, as long as the three officers who fired their weapons that night are free, though one of them was indicted for shooting into her neighbor's apartment.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: They're showing the world how they treat us as citizens.
JOHN YANG: Some protesters say their experience with police over the last year only underscores the need for change.
ARI TULAY, Protester: I remember the police officers and the SWAT just coming at us.
JOHN YANG: Ari Tulay was 19 years old when she joined the early protests last May.
ARI TULAY: As soon as we reached the blockade, we stopped.
And that's when the chemical agents started to be fired, the rubber bullets started to be fired.
And it was turned into a war zone.
About 100 of us were arrested that night.
And then I was one of the last five to be released about 30 hours later.
So, it was an intense experience.
I mean, jail is incredibly dehumanizing.
JOHN YANG: But Tulay found humanity among the crowd in jail that night, an experience, she says, that moved her to keep protesting.
ARI TULAY: There needed to be a disruption to the way things were to be able to have people see us.
But, I mean, I always think anger is painted as a negative in protest movements and just in the Black community, that we're not allowed to be angry, because that can be misconstrued.
But it was -- it was -- it's anger because we know that there's a reality in which this doesn't have to happen.
JOHN YANG: Anger at leaders like Greg Fischer, mayor of Louisville since 2010.
GREG FISCHER, Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky: I think that history will show that we have done most everything we possibly could toward moving toward truth and transparency, toward justice, within the power that I have.
JOHN YANG: Louisville banned the kind of no-knock warrants that gave police license to break into Breonna Taylor's home as she lay sleeping, and the Metro Council also established a civilian review board to investigate police misconduct.
But the state legislature hasn't given it the power to compel testimony and evidence from anyone beyond Metro government employees, something both activists and Fischer say the board needs to effectively investigate cases.
GREG FISCHER: I'm disappointed that didn't happen here this past session.
The public wants to know more about what's taking place with police investigations.
There's just not enough transparency.
And when there's not transparency, there's not trust.
JOHN YANG: In January, many found that trust further tested when Fischer appointed Erika Shields the new police chief.
She had quit as Atlanta's police chief after video of an officer fatally shooting a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, went viral.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: I was like, wait a minute.
She didn't -- she left.
She quit with what happened with Rayshard Brooks.
And she's coming here to heal and fix us?
GREG FISCHER: Well, I can understand why people would have that concern.
And I knew it was going to be a controversial decision.
But Chief Shields was so far the -- above everybody else in terms of her being a candidate for this job, that it was an easy decision to make.
And I think she's won over most of her critics.
JOHN YANG: But a year since protests erupted in Louisville, critics remain of Fischer, of Shields, and of a police force that some residents say continues to abuse its power.
These tensions aren't just about police and the community.
Protesters say those issues tie into centuries of racist policies that shaped the very development of the city.
To see the results, drive west on Muhammad Ali Boulevard, a main thoroughfare.
ARI TULAY: There's something called the 9th Street Divide in Louisville, and on one side of 9th Street, your life expectancy can be seen to be 15 years higher, less likely to have asthma, less likely to have eczema.
And on the other side of 9th Street, that's known as the West End, and you're going to have a lower life expectancy, higher rate of heart disease.
So, growing up around that, it's a visual difference.
And it makes you then question the motive.
JOHN YANG: It was all by design.
A 1914 ordinance barred Black Louisville residents from occupying houses on majority-white blocks, and the other way around.
Then, in the 1930s, so-called redlining maps color-coded city neighborhoods based on how desirable lenders considered them for investment.
Desirable usually meant white.
Black and immigrant areas were typically given the lowest grades.
Louisville's history of redlining has concentrated Black residents into West End neighborhoods like this one called Russell.
In the early part of the 20th century, this was a thriving hub of Black business and culture.
But decades of disinvestment have driven many residents into poverty.
Today, the Black homeownership rate in Louisville is half of what it is for white residents.
KEVIN DUNLAP, Executive Director, REBOUND, Inc.: All of these vacant lots didn't exist.
JOHN YANG: Kevin Dunlap was born in Russell.
KEVIN DUNLAP: I used to ride my bicycle down this street.
I mean, it was a thriving area growing up as a child.
Over time, just seeing what the transition has been, it's very disheartening to see.
JOHN YANG: Dunlap is the executive director of REBOUND, the nonprofit housing arm of Louisville's Urban League.
He points to government urban renewal policies in the 1950s and '60s that resulted in the demolition of majority-Black areas.
KEVIN DUNLAP: You began to see people begin to move out or were displaced as a result of urban renewal.
But as you begin to start buying up property and acquiring property, there was no need for other people, didn't want to stay next to undeveloped property.
And it kind of wiped out the business sector that was part of the heart of the African American community.
JOHN YANG: Dunlap's group is working with the Metro Louisville government to increase Black homeownership in the West End.
City officials acknowledge Louisville needs more than 30,000 additional units of affordable housing.
JECOREY ARTHUR, Louisville Metro Council Member: In the city of Louisville, we have a housing crisis.
JOHN YANG: Like Dunlap, Jecorey Arthur was born and raised in the West End.
Last year, at 28, he was elected Louisville's youngest member of the Metro Council.
JECOREY ARTHUR: When you can't afford to live here in the neighborhood with the highest rate of poverty, you can't afford to live anywhere.
And to a certain extent, you could argue you're not supposed to afford to live at all.
You have really got three options.
You could be houseless in a junkyard, you can be imprisoned in a prison yard, or you will be dead in a graveyard.
JOHN YANG: Nachand Trabue is a fourth-generation resident of Smoketown, a historically Black neighborhood just southeast of downtown.
NACHAND TRABUE, Bates Community Development Corporation: You have 22 percent Black population .You have 2.4 percent that are business owners.
We should have 10 times more business owners.
We don't have access to capital.
We don't have access to resources.
And that's the missing piece that we're not able to build is the generational wealth piece.
JOHN YANG: Trabue says housing disparities touch so many other aspects of life in the neighborhood.
Lower-income areas like Smoketown and Russell have higher crimes rates, which means more policing.
Do you think it's a conversation and a worry that white mothers on the East Side of Louisville have?
NACHAND TRABUE: No, no.
No, no, no, no.
They don't have this type of worry.
Our worries are different.
They're worried about what soccer game are they getting ready to go to.
And I'm worried about, can my son even go to the bus stop without getting mistakenly identified as somebody that he's not and getting shot and killed?
JOHN YANG: Jecorey Arthur doesn't want to wait for the slow work of police reform to better Louisville's Black neighborhoods.
JECOREY ARTHUR: As long as we stand in Russell that has the highest percentage of poverty, you are going to have the highest percentages of crime.
Thus, you're going to call who whenever those crimes are committed?
You are going to call the police.
And in some cases, they escalate those situations.
So, I'm less worried about the police, and more worried about addressing poverty.
JOHN YANG: Shameka Parrish-Wright wants to tackle some of those root causes in a new role.
She's running for mayor, seeking to channel the passion of the protest movement toward meaningful reform.
Meanwhile, the long search for justice in Louisville is just beginning.
SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: We haven't seen the accountability that Breonna deserves, that our city deserves.
But we are starting to see that people are waking up.
And I don't think people are ever going to go back to sleep.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The three cities we profiled tonight, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Louisville, have been on the knife's edge when it comes to policing and broader racial inequities.
But there are many places in America grappling with similar questions.
We look at all this now with three guests.
DeRay McKesson is co-founder of Campaign Zero, an organization aimed at ending police violence.
Margaret Huang is president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization.
And Rosa Brooks is a Georgetown University law professor who five years ago became a reserve police officer in Washington, D.C., to try to better understand the profession.
Brooks writes of that experience in her new book, "Tangled Up in Blue."
And I want to thank you all for being here with us.
We appreciate it.
And, DeRay McKesson, to you first.
This country has been dealing with race and all of the issues around it from its very beginning.
How does the death of George Floyd fit into that complicated history?
DERAY MCKESSON, Co-Founder, Campaign Zero: You know, in so many ways, we have been here before.
One conviction doesn't change the demand for justice.
And remember that the police kill, on average, 1,100 people a year, and the highest number of convictions for this set of officers ever in a given year is 11.
So, when you look at the numbers, the numbers continue to be bad.
The police killed more people in 2020 than every single year of data we have except for 2018.
And, already in 2021, the police have killed over 400 people.
So, I do think that the death of George Floyd was an awakening, a reawakening for a lot of people, and helped them understand that this is systemic, this is not just in one city, but this is happening all over the country.
Now the next step is, how do we make sure that we get results that actually make the problem go away?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Huang, as somebody who looks at human rights broadly and focuses very much on racial injustice, what do you think the country's learned since the death of George Floyd and the reaction to it?
MARGARET HUANG, President, Southern Poverty Law Center: Judy, the system of policing that we have in this country actually started at the beginning of the founding of our country as a slave patrol system.
Police officers were created to track down slaves and to bring them back to their owners in the Deep South.
And it's why today we still see remnants of the origins of that system in the way that police are trained and the way that police are responding to situations on the ground.
That's why it's so important that we reckon with the racial history of our country, that we understand how white supremacy undergirds all of our institutions and our structures of governance and law enforcement.
If we don't reckon with that, we're not going to be able to move forward.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Rosa Brooks, you're a - - you teach law.
That's your career.
But you did take time out to study policing.
You became a reserve police officer, as we said, and spent time on the beat.
What did you learn about policing in that period?
You said at one point you learned how hard it is to be a cop.
What did that mean?
ROSA BROOKS, Author, "Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City": We pile so many contradictory tasks on police right now, in part because we have essentially in most parts of the United States eviscerated other social services.
So, at the moment, we are expecting police to enforce civil traffic regulations, to be mediators, to be social workers, to be medics, to do all kinds of things that really do not and should not require an armed response.
And a lot of those situations end up being really fraught, and for all the reasons that DeRay and Margaret have already highlighted.
The more you have contacts and enforcement contacts between armed police and members of the public, the more possibility you have for things to go badly, fatally wrong.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And given that, DeRay, what are some things that would make a difference in this country?
I mean, your organization looks at it every day.
What would make the most difference, and what do you see in states that are already moving to try to make changes?
DERAY MCKESSON: You know, one of the biggest misconceptions is that people like, the police are above the law.
And you're like, they're actually not above the law, I would say.
It's that they actually just have their own set of laws.
Like, that's a part of the problem, that it's just a completely different standard for the police.
So, we look across the country.
There are 20 states that have what we call a police officer bill of rights that are state-level protections that essentially protect the police from accountability.
So, like, in California, the law says that any investigation of an officer that lasts more than a year can never result in discipline, regardless of the outcome.
That doesn't make sense.
In Louisiana, the law says that officers who engage in misconduct get 30 days before they can even be asked any question.
Maryland is actually the first state that ever had one of those laws and, importantly, this year, the first state to repeal such a law.
So, there is progress happening.
There is hope.
The use of force policies matter.
Restricting no-knock raids matter.
Police unions have a lot of power.
And breaking that power, so that we don't inhibit rules around accountability, is actually a really big deal.
So, those are some of the things.
And the George Floyd Act, there are some good things that are in it.
And I know that Cory Booker's team and a host of other people are working on revisions.
So I think that the next set that we see will have even more of the demands that have risen up from community over the past year.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Huang, as you listen to this, as you listen to the remedies that are out there, whether they are enacted or not, which ones do you see making the most difference?
MARGARET HUANG: Judy, I think one of the most important things to do is to actually acknowledge the history of the Confederacy and to put it away for once -- once and for all.
In this country, there are still more than 1,700 symbols of the Confederacy monuments, statues, buildings named after Confederate generals.
These, every day, are a signal to people of color, and particularly to Black people in this country, that they're still not equal.
And if we're going to make this change happen, we have to eliminate the symbols that perpetuate the undergirding structural racism that is around.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Rosa Brooks, connect that to what you see inside the police, and how they think about what their job is every single day in this country.
ROSA BROOKS: I think police are confused.
They're as confused as the rest of us.
A lot of people join policing because they want to help people.
They often were crime victims themselves or close to someone who is a crime victim.
But the job makes them quite cynical, in part because you're seeing people often in the worst moments of their lives.
They're distressed, et cetera.
It can lead police officers to feel like there's nothing much good in humanity.
And that's - - that cynicism, I think, is a reason that suicide kills more police officers each year than every other cause combined.
I think, also, police officers, like the rest of America, are really struggling.
And, in Washington, D.C., for instance, where we do have a majority-Black police department, where some of the types of reforms and changes that DeRay was talking about have improved the department significantly in the last 20 years, we have a lot of officers who are really, I think, struggling, because they want to be doing things that are good, but they recognize that they're caught up in a system that in all kinds of ways does perpetuate racial injustice.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, DeRay, coming back to you on that point, what message do you want to send to police -- individual police officers about how they see their job and how they treat all Americans?
DERAY MCKESSON: Yes, I -- in some ways, I don't think this is really an issue about the individuals.
I'm mindful that the individuals do make choices, right?
So, when the police say this is hard, it's like, you choose to kill somebody.
You choose to harm people.
Like, that's a choice.
But I'm also mindful that we need to move away from policing as a response to all crisis - - all crises or conflicts in communities, right?
So, when I hear people say police now, I just swap that out with the phrase person with a gun, because that's really what people mean.
And it's like, do you need a person with a gun to respond to somebody with suicidal ideation?
Do you need a person with a gun to be the person that tells you that you don't have your tail light on?
Like, you don't, right?
The police actually are the first people to tell us that they're doing too much, they're not social workers, they're not -- they're the first.
And the moment that we agree with them and say, cool, let's move away from policing and go to preventative work or social services or other interventions in conflict that are not people with guns, then they freak out.
And I think that we actually just have to normalize this understanding that there are a host of ways to deal with conflict that are not calling people with guns, which is what the police are.
ROSA BROOKS: And the one place where I would disagree slightly with DeRay is, I think it is possible to enlist police officers themselves in being part of that change, because I think, when you shift the conversation from, we just want to take away your resources, but leave you doing exactly the same things you're doing now, which makes officers go out, ow, whoa, that doesn't work, and change that conversation to what do you do now that you don't think you ought to be doing, that you're not good at?
What do you do now that is not effective, because there aren't other city services that can -- that can be there and be supportive of what you do?
You get a really different conversation.
And I think it is possible to move away from the conversation that leaves cops feeling defensive and towards one that leaves them feeling like, yes, that's a good point.
If we shrink the kinds of things we do, we could actually -- we could actually have less money and we could be more effective.
So I don't think it's impossible.
That said, I very much think it's right it's not really about individual officers.
Police don't exist in a vacuum.
They reflect all the problems of our broader society.
DERAY MCKESSON: And the only thing -- the only thing I would push a little bit is a reminder that shrinking the role and the footprint is also shrinking the number of officers, right?
And I don't -- the data doesn't show that that means more crime.
And we actually might be intervening and responding to things before crimes happen, which is actually a cool thing, right, that our work can't be rooted in only responding to bad things.
Our work has to actually be rooted in making sure that the bad things don't happen in the first place.
So, when you think about the effects of poverty, we think about, like, how communities are designed in ways to create conflict, these are policy choices.
Homelessness is a policy choice.
Poverty is a policy choice.
We could actually set people up with a whole different set of options on the front end, so that we don't deal with these back end effects.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Rosa Brooks, how do we restore trust between police and the communities they are there to serve?
ROSA BROOKS: It is not an uncomplicated story.
You know that, when you look at public polling on confidence in policing, it's very uneven, but it's not rock-bottom.
Even in low-income communities of color, there are still plenty of people who do want to work with police.
They don't necessarily want fewer police.
They want better and different and more responsive policing.
So I think it will happen.
I do -- just wanted to return to something interesting that DeRay said.
One of the fascinating things about the COVID pandemic is that crime did not go up.
Homicides went up in a number of American cities, but overall crime actually went down.
And that's interesting both because it was during a period of extreme economic hardship for many Americans and it was during a period in which police in many municipalities, not all, but many, adopted a deliberate policy of reducing the types of situations, the number of situations to which armed officers were sent, simply because every interaction created a risk of infection for both the officers and everybody else involved.
And the sky did not fall.
So, we just -- we're just coming out of a forced natural experiment in what happens if you reduce the amount of policing for minor things in many communities.
And, so far, the results suggest that you don't necessarily get more crime, that you can do that and nothing terrible will happen, which, in itself, I think is a really hopeful indicator for those who think we should be doing a whole lot less policing and, frankly, criminalizing many fewer minor misdeeds.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And something else that has come up... DERAY MCKESSON: Yes, but... JUDY WOODRUFF: But go ahead, DeRay.
DERAY MCKESSON: I just want to say, you know what did stay constant during the pandemic, though, was police killings.
The police killed more people last year than they did in every other year we have data for except for 2018.
People weren't even outside.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Margaret Huang, this question of restoring trust, to the extent it was there, how do you rebuild, how do you recreate trust between the police and the communities they're are serving?
MARGARET HUANG: Actions always speak louder than words.
What we need to see is actually a transformation in the way policing departments respond in communities.
And I think we have some interesting models that are now being adopted across the country.
And we have a lot of interesting conversations happening about how police can show up differently in communities.
What we need to see is buy-in from the police, but also from the elected officials who oversee them.
And we need to see buy-in from communities.
Communities have to have a stake in the direction we're going in, and communities need to be consulted on how we do this well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It's a time of many, many hard questions that we're all trying to address.
And we want to thank the three of you for joining us for this special program.
DeRay McKesson, Margaret Huang, Rosa Brooks, thank you.
Thank you, each one of you.
MARGARET HUANG: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Whatever comes from efforts to improve relations between Black Americans and the police and race relations overall in this country, the murder of George Floyd was a historic marker.
It galvanized and mobilized many here and around the world to say, no more.
It ignited countless public debates about policy and millions of private conversations about attitudes.
And it reminds us that what sets this nation apart is the constant striving to do better.
In order to form that more perfect union laid out in our Constitution, we have no choice but to keep working, keep talking, keep striving toward better policing, more engaged communities that make the safety and well-being of all Americans the priority of all of us.
I'm Judy Woodruff.
Thank you for watching.