Remembering George Floyd: Atlanta pays tribute to him, others, a year later

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May 26—ATLANTA — Hannah Williams said her family was lucky to have seen police body camera footage of the death of her brother, Matthew Zadok Williams.

On April 12, Matthew Zadok Williams was shot by DeKalb County Police and died inside his home.

"My family has been blessed, because we were able to see some body cam footage," Hannah Williams said into a megaphone Tuesday. "I can't imagine going through this and not being able to see my brother's final moments. So I want to acknowledge all the families, who were not able to see that. This has been hell."

Matthew Zadok Williams' family was one of many who rallied in downtown Atlanta a year after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The protesters joined thousands across the country in commemorating Floyd whose brutal death went viral through captured cellphone video.

But the year anniversary marked not only a day to remember Floyd but an opportunity for Georgia families to lift up names of their own loved ones lost to police violence.

Tammy Featherstone, co-founder of Georgia Moms United, lost her nephew, Jimmy Atchison, who was shot and killed while hiding in a closet in 2019. At Liberty Plaza in front of the Capitol building, she detailed the pain with the group of Georgia women.

"We do a lot of crying," she said. "People don't understand that when you lose a child it's hard. And to lose it to the ones that's supposed to protect and serve us, makes it even harder."

During the rally, retired NBA player Stephen Jackson, a longtime friend of Floyd, said while his friend's death sparked a nationwide response, there's still a long way to go.

"Yeah, my brother changed the world, but the world hasn't changed," Jackson said. "We're still being killed. We're still being mistreated."

A year after Floyd's death, his family traveled to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden and members of Congress on police reform that has stalled at the federal level. Congress has failed to pass a bill to overhaul the country's policing laws within the 365 days after his death.

Floyd, 46, was killed May 25, 2020, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was found guilty of all the charges against him last month.

But many share the thought that despite weeks of mass protests last year and a renewed push for police reform, not much has changed.

"People I think are feeling a little bit more on edge. I don't want to say they're feeling more optimistic or hopeful, but they're feeling on edge because they understand the urgency of this moment," said the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP.

When asked if he was satisfied with some of the state-level changes — a new hate crimes bill on the books in Georgia and a repeal of its outdated citizen's arrest law — Woodall was clear: "I will never be satisfied until black lives are no longer murdered and taken from us by state violence."

Atlanta activist Oscar Cain was the victim of police violence in 2019. On Tuesday, his two children addressed the crowd gathered in Atlanta.

"My dad was a good person. He was loving, caring, funny, goofy and determined," his son, Malicah Cain, said quietly into a microphone. "... He made mistakes but everyone makes mistakes. Nobody is perfect. My dad should have never been killed or died the way he did. Me and my family should never have to go through what we went through."

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