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Hey, up first, listeners, it's Sunday and we have a new episode for you this summer when Minneapolis police officers killed George Floyd, everything seemed to change or a lot of things.
Anyway, protesters around the world demanded justice. And over and over again, they said the names of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and Damodar Aubrey NPR sat down with their families and their friends to learn more about who these folks were. And over the next three Sundays, we're going to be playing those stories today. What lit the match? Ailsa Chang and Rachel Martin have this report.
This is a special report from NPR News, Summer of Racial Reckoning. I'm Ailsa Chang. And I'm Rachel Martin. May 25th, 2020, Memorial Day. Two months into the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. was in crisis. Tens of thousands dead. Large parts of the country locked down offices, schools, stores, restaurants, churches, all closed. Millions had lost their jobs.
Then, just before eight o'clock that Monday evening in Minneapolis, a 46 year old black man named George Floyd stepped into Cub Foods convenience store to buy cigarettes. And just a warning, this audio is hard to listen to.
Please, please, please, please. Lenny, Lenny, George Floyd on the ground, a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on him nearly nine minutes past, the officer pressing his knee into Floyd's neck the whole time until Floyd passes out and later is pronounced dead.
It was all captured on video and it spread online, instantly igniting outrage and activism, starting with the crowd who gathered there on that street corner during the standoff between George Floyd and police. The crowd begging the police to let us know.
Go back and look ahead. We're not recording right now. You know how we feel right now. He's not responsive right now. No, look at me right now.
Well, then the first crowd started to gather in Minneapolis, protesting Floyd's death at the hands of their police force.
Drawn from. Overnight, Minneapolis on fire, protesters leaving an auto parts store in flames, others seen looting a local target, all of it after demonstrators approached one of the city's police precincts.
We're about to lose the front of the precinct if we don't move this crowd out.
And as video of Floyd's encounter with police and news of his death spread, so did the outrage and the demonstrations, not just not just in downtown L.A. A support rally this evening by Black Lives Matter near the Hall of Justice began peacefully through the Twitter flag.
One of President Trump's tweets about Minneapolis earlier today saying it glorified violence. Trump's tweet read, quote, When the looting starts, the shooting starts. The tweet on the president's personal account was hidden peacefully assembling.
The NYPD began to aggressively look at as elsewhere, even speaking. We're watching them aggressively look at what he's doing to stop for Minneapolis.
Police officers involved in the arrest of a black man who died in custody have been fired. In this three part special report from NPR News, we're going to look back at the events of this summer. We'll hear more about the life of George Floyd and also about the lives of Briona Taylor and Imod Aubrey, two other black people whose tragic deaths led to a rallying cry for change.
In part two, we'll hear how systemic racism has shaped American institutions, including the police.
And in part three, we'll hear how things are starting to change. Confederate statues coming down, cities committing to rethinking police budgets and how there is still a long way to go.
But to know where we're headed, we have to understand how we got here, and one thing is for sure, this all began long before George Floyd was killed by a police officer in front of a convenience store on Memorial Day. Karen Grigsby Bates is a senior correspondent for NPR's Code Switch podcast, and she's with me now to talk more about the broader context of this moment. Karen, thanks for being here. Thank you, Rachel. So George Floyd is a name attached to a long list of names of black men killed by police in this country.
Before Floyd, there was Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Phil Endocast, steal the list goes on and on. Each of those feltlike in isolation, they could have been a moment for change. Why didn't that happen at all? Those different points in time.
We in black and brown communities around the country saw that and said, wow. And sadly, it wasn't something that was unfamiliar to us. I think other people who have had different lived experiences, especially in terms of their interactions with police, looked at it and thought, well, these guys must have done something wrong, you know, because otherwise why would the police react that way? And I think it took a while for these incidences to pile up for all of a sudden somebody saying, hmm, maybe there's something else happening here.
And this was about white people seeing this happen in a new way to a certain degree. Right? I mean, there was the video in a very intimate look at a man's life ending with George Floyd.
You saw from the beginning to the end. And I think part of what made this a tipping point for the nation, as opposed to just communities within the nation, was that we were able to see the officer's knee on Floyd's neck. We saw him getting sort of fainter and fainter him, gasping, you know, I can't breathe while his hands were in his pocket. This is the thing that people would say to me over and over again when I would ask them about this.
It's like this is what our lives mean to them. And so the them obviously is police.
I mean, what were your thoughts, Karen, in conversations with your own friends and family?
You know, people sort of universally said no matter their race or their gender or their age, the one thing that they kept saying was that made me sick to watch it. The second thing some people said was I knew what was on that tape, but I couldn't watch it because it was just too triggering. But the people who actually saw it often saw it more than once because they just couldn't believe what they were seeing. And a lot of us felt physically ill.
What about your conversations with white colleagues or white friends?
They were physically ill, too, and I think that's what made it a tipping point, that with George Floyd all of a sudden everybody was seeing it all at once. At the same time, there was no editing of the tape and it was hugely disturbing to people who had not had hostile interactions with the police.
So the protest started right in Minneapolis after George Floyds death. And then they were seemingly everywhere.
You know, you think back to Ferguson, Missouri, and Michael Brown's death and the protests that happened there. And there were national protests around that, but not nearly the same way that we have seen the protests erupt around America this summer.
Why do you think three and a half years of unrelieved social division, racial division, class division that have a lot of people feel been stoked at the top from leadership in the White House has done its work. And so all this tension and all this animosity, that's partially why people just realized we have to fix this or the whole thing's going to blow up.
There's obviously another element to these protests, right? A pandemic that is affecting black and brown people much harder than it is white people, frankly. Yes, it is. And this is how Qiangba Yamata Taylor, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton, connected the pandemic to George Floyds, killing the week after.
The idea that the richest country in the history of the world cannot get people face masks, cannot ensure that people will not be thrown out of their houses, cannot ensure that people will be fed is an abomination. And so for me, the events over the last week have shown that people are even in the midst of this pandemic and social distancing. And self isolation are going to fight for a different kind of reality, and the struggle on the streets has to be turned into organizing, has to be turned into a set of achievable demands.
But it begins with resisting the status quo and letting it be known that we're not all just going to lay down and die.
I mean, what do you make of that, Karen?
Well, I'm thinking that the pandemic is a lot of people have said emphasized the social inequities that already existed in our society. And one of the things it did was make the protests that are going on now bigger than just policing. They want a lot of the social inequities in this country corrected. They want better health care for everybody, no matter what they look like.
They want better education no matter where they live or what they look like. They've happened piecemeal, but not as a unified whole. And I think that's why a lot of people persist in the streets.
The Reverend Al Sharpton talked about these very ideas, these inequities, these structural imbalances when he spoke at George Floyds Memorial Service. And I want to play a long clip of his remarks from that day.
Let's listen. We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street. But you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills. We could do it. Hardly anybody else could do, but we couldn't get showed me off my neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country and education and health services and in every area of American life.
It's time for us to stand up and judge his name and say, get your name off our next. I mean, this is so much of what this is about, right? America acknowledging waking up whatever verb you want to use to the fact that this was not isolated, that this is a tragedy, what happened to George Floyd, but it represents day to day injustices against black and brown people.
When George Floyds funeral was televised, it's like, wow, you know, he just sort of put it all out there in very stark language.
That should be easy enough for even the most indifferent person to hear and understand. Karen, thanks.
We really appreciate the conversation in the context. You're welcome.
Line by line. My name. George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Amad Aubury, those were the names that protesters were chanting on the streets after Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. We wanted to learn more about their lives, who they were, what they cared about, and the people who loved and cared for them. George Floyds Memorial Services drew huge crowds, first in Minneapolis, then in his home state of Texas.
Well, when I saw three officers holding a black man down, I am screaming, Mama and I can't breathe and no one will help him is taken me. And I felt like it was time for me to take a stab at seeing that technique being done on someone that was handcuffed. He was not putting up a fight. He was actually pleading his case. It hurt.
It broke my heart. I slept happy. I've been out here. I ain't going nowhere.
They don't know our neighborhood. It's our neighborhood. We growed up it, trust me, when I think it could have been me, me and my brother, my father, anybody.
George Floyd was somebody's father and brother. His brother Fellini's spoke at the memorial in Minneapolis.
Everybody loved George. We didn't call him George. We called him Peery. If you if you called him Perry, you knew him Dierig, you know, because George was the name everybody. Kind of Big George. Big Floyd, you know, George because he had so many different names.
George Floyd had only called Minneapolis home for a few years. Home was Houston. Morning Edition host David Greene visited his hometown to learn more about the life of George Floyd.
To tell Floyd's story, you really have to come here. We're in the heart of Houston's third ward. You literally feel George Floyd looking down on you.
His face is on a mural on the side of a small grocery store. There's a halo above his head with the words Texas made, 3rd Ward raised. People have been gathering here in a small part, nearly nonstop. People like Crystal Hewitt, who knew Floyd's family.
It's always a gathering place. We always gather buddy over here. Yeah, she tells us about all the other names on this wall, people the community has lost people. You know, a lot of these name I know everybody wanted to hear about, as well as from this maybe someone more helpful like natural causes, someone we hear from there by a drive by shooting. But this is our family. So it's like the killer angels of our family. It's not the people who look down with the help of your nephews on who's going here.
My cousins here. Can I ask how they you know, they don't. My nephew passed away by. He got shot. My cousin got shot. My friend, she tries to drive by shooting just charm.
And now George Floyd is on this wall in a prominent place.
You see the OG he's he's OGE of this neighborhood. He always used to tell the younger version of the trial stay out of trouble. He left Houston, didn't try to better himself if we're going to leave the building himself to get killed. I mean, I was about to like that was like it was crazy. It was my brother to me because he told us a lot. He's older than me. So I'm forty four years old and he talks a lot, you know, for me to see him on national TV passed away like that.
What did he teach you? You know, the streets is not on the beat. You know, we get out here, we we we jump off the porch young. We try to follow the old people still selling drugs. One of the things he says, not first, a woman's place is to be doing work. And all the time a young man is supposed to be trying to take care of a family. And that's what he was trying to do, take his family.
He was always a family.
If you walk a few blocks from the little market, you're in cuney homes. It's a public housing community. Residents fondly call it the bricks. The buildings are all too stories made of bricks surrounding a basketball court where much of life plays out. Floyd used to shoot hoops here. He would also drag tubs out onto the court to baptize neighbors with his church.
The breaks, his heart is hot.
This is Eddie Barlow, who grew up here and now teaches English and coaches basketball at Yates High School, where Floyd went to school.
Ninety five was living with an aunt, a grandmother, a single parent, you know, because their fathers are either on drugs in prison, can't get work. Half Delaneys is hard.
And this was George Floyds World at the memorial in Minneapolis. Floyds brother said the family didn't have much. They would sleep in the same beds. They'd make mayonnaise, banana sandwiches together. But George Floyd and his mom, who worked at a fast food spot in the neighborhood, are remembered for helping the community however they could. We were talking here on the. The other day, with two people who knew Floyd Xavier Roberson and Stephanie Square, Xavier said he remembered as a boy if he had no money, he would always look for Floyd to be walking through here.
And Floyd would never say no. He'd give him a dollar or two.
A lot of these kids get their meals when they go to school. And so that was one reason that I couldn't work out like I wanted to come to school because I got to find my next meal. I'm trying to get some money, some kind of way. Can I ask you about about his mom? There's a lot of people I feel like we'd love to know who she was and what she was like. She had a hamburger stand. What do you remember about it?
And that's what we when we got home, we can be very for. But we know we went there and we ate. And, you know, sometimes we would we would call Mississippi will pay you next week or tomorrow.
And she'd be OK with it even if we didn't like he and his mom were really important to the security of the village. When I say it takes a village, they were part of the village. They raised us, you know, and we we were the lucky ones.
And it wasn't just money and food. Floyd would tell younger kids at every chance to try to stay out of trouble.
He was always encouraging. I actually was very surprised when I started seeing my former students posting messages of encouragement that he sent them. And I thought to myself, wow, he never stopped. All he did was encourage everyone and tell you words like, I'm so proud of you. We are going to make it. You're going to be an example to a lot of others. I think that's his legacy. And that's what that's what we try to do, is to just continue to give back and do the same thing, encourage the younger ones.
What's really interesting is that friends who knew George Floyd more recently as an adult here bring up the same thing, even two decades later, after Floyd played some college basketball in Florida and then made his way back to Houston to help his mom, he was still telling kids in the bricks to stay on the right path. But now he was drawing on years more experience. And Jalen Dunn was with other friends gathered on the basketball court here the other day to reflect on went through the trials and life that comes from a systemic injustice.
I mean, look at where we stand in that, right? You know what? Poverty is real. And so I think he you know, he lived a life where every stereotype, you know, that's placed upon a black man coming from poverty and inner city, all those things are real. Yeah. You got a criminal record? Yeah, he did time in jail. But when I met him, it was on the other side of that. The George that I met was a man who had all the state, who had all the scars and scratches in the walls and who could speak from a place of experience.
And so, you know, for the 14, 15 year old 16 year olds, hey, this isn't the way like I've walked down this path. This is the way so that George Ford that I met was an advocate for change. Like I've continued to say, yeah, there is a criminal record, there is time served in jail, shouts out to the district attorneys who prosecuted themselves out to the judges who dropped the gavel, shouts out to them the system worked.
And, you know, in this case where we're just continuing to exploit the system to work again.
In recent years, Floyd became a lot more involved in church. He was seen as sort of a gatekeeper for the neighborhood. Pastors and aid groups could only come into the bricks to help people if they had Floyd's blessing.
The Christian hip hop musician Cary Paul, who got to know Floyd, says Floyd's decision a few years back to move to Minneapolis was grounded in his faith.
He went to Minnesota to grace his life through a Christian ministry for job placements and learning how to drive trucks. And, you know, it was a it was an intentional move by people saying you don't come from areas from black and go to Minnesota, just hang out. You know what I'm saying is you're going there for a reason. For George, the reason it was to better his life even more.
Now, many people are searching for something deeper as they grieve.
And I think somehow the Lord is allowing it to transcend amongst people. And I believe it's just because it's true me, like regardless of what people try to say, you talk to 100 people that know, you know, he was walking, living, you know, sacrifice. And I feel like God is allowing people to see day.
Floyd's death, of course, has led to nationwide protests, calls for policing in America to change raw conversations about race and discrimination here on the basketball court in the BRICS the other day.
It's also led to this. You will take part here. You want to hear you think thing? Yeah, we can take a petition every day and let's go.
Let's not engage with people who knew Floyd had set up tables right on the court to register new voters.
That's coming from where we come from. To be honest, I don't think there was even a conversation about how important voting was.
That's Eddie Barlowe, again, the high school teacher. He was working on this voter drive with Xavier Roberson.
How do you tie his killing to wanting to do this today? If I can be completely honest with you recently, getting people out of a position of power that not for all people, only for a select few amount of people, that's like the root of it, you know. If you can get somebody off is that's for all people, then we won't have these problems to be accountable. You know, police will be held accountable for situations like this.
So I think this is one of the next steps that we could do to help.
You know, it may be smaller to some people, but is this basketball court, the mural of Floyd over at the market have become spaces for almost round the clock vigils, places to reflect. Krystal Hewitt comes here to the mural each day when she checks on her mom who lives in the brain.
My mother is 65, so she'd been out here for like, wow, she took with a pandemic and everything. Oh, yeah. I'm sure she's going to be. I go every day and check on you. And your mom talked about the killing of the thing that she said was you seeing him call his mother. His mom was coming to get me. Because that's what that's when he took his last breath. He was lovely. I mean, she was coming for.
That's hard for me. I don't know how other people feel. I'm just sick of it. I've never be raised in my life and I'm just sick of it. I love people in general, not people, not people of color, people. And to see so many people come out here to show love for him, this it is nice. Would you turn up? No, I you're allowed to cry as much. I know it's just hurtful.
George Floyd and his mom are to be buried side by side. That was NPR's David Greene before George Floyd called out for his mother as he lay dying, before he was buried next to her, before protesters took up his cause and the cause of police brutality directed at minorities. There was a mod, Aubrey Aubrey went for a jog on a late winter day in suburban Georgia.
And during that jog, the 25 year old was shot and killed after being chased by three white men, one a former police officer. All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly spoke with Associated Press race and ethnicity reporter Erin Morrison to learn more about the life of a modern robbery.
Start by describing for us the neighborhood, the community that Ammad Aubrey lived in. How long had his family been there?
His family had been there for is as early as his peewee football days. If you wanted a description of the town, it's a predominantly black town surrounded by predominantly white subdivisions and other communities, more suburban or more affluent. And so where we find a mod here is Brunswick home into a subdivision known as Atila Shores. And that's where he encounters the two men that would profile him as a burglar and and kill him who are charged with shooting him.
Yeah, well, take us back to those peewee football days. His family told you that he was a shy kid growing up reserve.
They worried he never went out. Did they talk about how he came out of his shell?
They talked about him really coming into his own as he started in his early teens to late teens, started to think about what he wanted out of his life. And he at one point wanted to turn his love of football and sports into a career in the NFL. And that's not something that panned out, really. His coach told me that, you know, he wasn't a shoo in for linebacker even on the junior varsity squad of his high school, but he showed a lot of heart and still managed to play it for years on his high school football team.
The high school football coach, Jason Vaughn, I gather, was his name, also said that Aubrey had a pretty good sense of humor, that he did a good imitation of his coach.
Well, multiple people that I spoke to talked about MoD's personality. His mother said he was the life of the party, but then also to his coach says that he had this real ability to sense when his coach wasn't having a great day. And so he'd go, you know, go stand next to him in the hallway and sort of imitate him and tell other students to get to class. And don't be tardy. Don't be late. And the coach that Jason Vaughn said that that was really the way that imod child care for other people.
It sounds like people were pretty open with you that that Aubrey had had some some rough patches. He had had a couple of run ins with the law in twenty thirteen. In twenty seventeen, there was probation for bringing a gun to high school grounds. There was a shoplifting charge.
But his lawyer, Lee Merritt, told you that Aubrey was at a point of transition. What do we know about that? What was he planning for the future?
Well, his mother has three brothers and he wanted to become an electrician like like his uncles. And so he had gone to take some college courses to begin making the transition into becoming an electrician. But he decided to take a break sometime within the last year and that time would allow him to finish his term of probation for the charges that he pled guilty to with his late teens, early 20s.
Erin Morrison, he is a race and ethnicity reporter for the Associated Press, telling us a little bit there about the life of Amanda. Aubrey, thanks so much.
RB was shot and killed back in February. It took more than two months before anyone was charged with his killing. NPR's Michel Martin spoke to Benjamin Crump, an attorney who has represented the families of several black people who were killed by police.
What's your role in this case? Why does his family need a lawyer?
Certainly the reason, Michel, his family's lawyers, is a reason that is underscored by this very case, the fact that Amar Aubrey was executed in broad daylight and the prosecutors have video of the lynching. But yet the prosecutors failed to act on this probable cause that they could see with their own eyes. And so black people and brown people and people who are marginalized and disenfranchised have to turn to advocate for his mother and father. Begging and pleading for somebody to be held accountable for the murder of their child.
But yet the prosecutor told them no charges are to be filed. And so the family media advocates, they needed people who understood the law because, as you know, we are officers of the court and they needed somebody to say this isn't right.
That was NPR's Michel Martin. Coming up, another police killing on the other side of the country leads to more protests. Brianna Taylor was a paramedic. She was shot and killed by police in her own home. That's after a short break. Black voters play a crucial role for any Democrat who seeks to win the White House, but some big divides amongst that bloc and some serious ambivalence could determine who is elected president this November. Listen now on the Cosulich podcast from NPR.
This is a special report from NPR News, Summer of Racial Reckoning. I'm Rachel Martin. And I'm Ailsa Chang. This moment we're in began with the death of Jorge Floyd, but it didn't take long for a modern Aubrey and Brianna Taylor, both of whom were killed before Jorge Floyd was to also become symbols of violence against black people.
Brianna Taylor, the 26 year old emergency room technician, was shot and killed in her apartment by Louisville police on March 13th. It took weeks for her case to catch the nation's attention. And even now, no arrests have been made in her killing. All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro went to Louisville to find out more about Brianna Taylor, who she was before she became a symbol of police violence. He talked to some of the people who knew her best.
She was my little mini me. You have a little mini me. I think the can hear was that she was all minority.
Brianna's aunt, Bianca Austin, invited us to her home along with another aunt, Tasha Holloway and an uncle Tyrone Belle Isle.
Breezy, breezy, breezy goes is going good.
And we also visited two of her best friends since high school. Veronica Hunter and Gitanes Vaughn.
We met Brianna sophomore year. I met Brandon through you. Yeah. So you introduced it. So was it then her. And we've been inseparable ever since.
Three amigos as well of the Three Amigos, literally and collectively, her friends and family gave us the unvarnished picture of Brianna, the let her live in her her voice.
She's got like this like this like baby Wigney kind of voice.
Like she's like, oh my goodness, I don't want to. So you definitely know, like when we mocca like, you know who it was. You knew her.
Brianna Taylor loved old music from the 80s and 90s card games with family face to face and listen to some music.
What was her favorite game?
Skip Faces of Faith and singing. Oh, she's going to sing that to the top echelon is like, oh, so she'd like to sing.
She felt like she could get all her friends told us the same thing about her cooking.
She loved to do it, but she, she could cook, she couldn't cook, she chickened out. She can't cook a chicken fried food that's cooking. She can't cook either a little bit. Her favorite food was chicken fried, some good chicken she did for some chicken.
But like I said, this is the unvarnished picture. A lot of Briana Taylor's extended family moved from Michigan to Kentucky a few at a time. Over the years, she came to Louisville as a teenager and fit right in Brianna.
Love to hear. Oh, she added to this day, she loved it in Louisville, Kentucky. Yes, she absolutely loved it here, like everything about it.
When did you first know that she wanted to go into medical work and help people?
I think she's always had a caring heart. It was just in her nature to just take care of people that got this Facebook post that she made for me last year when I had a stroke. And I don't know, it's just like I saved it and everything, like, it just really touched me. But she said working in health care is so rewarding. It makes me feel so happy when I know I've made a difference in someone else's life. I'm so appreciative of all the staff that has helped my uncle throughout this difficult time and those that will continue to make a difference in his life.
Keep pushing, tibial. You got this. With that attitude and determination, I'm positive you will recover in no time. We love you. And it's just that something about her, you're right. It do say a lot about her life. And that's that's her. That's her all the way.
Last year, her friend Veronica Hunter had brain surgery. She and Brianna had drifted apart at that point. And Brianna showed up at the hospital to reminisce with her about old times.
And gosh, this is hard.
And I'm like, well, why do we why don't we fall out? I don't understand. She was like, it doesn't matter. Now we are together again. You know, don't worry about that. I love you. Just know that we hear. You hear. Yeah. This year, she won. She's not here at all and it's not right. I feel like we was robbed. Neighbors near PRP say they woke up to chaos, sounds of breaking glass, gunshots and sirens.
Earlier today, we know the outlines of how Brianna Taylor died. Police doing a narcotics investigation burst into her apartment in the middle of the night with a no knock warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thought someone was breaking in and shot an officer in the leg. Police shot up the apartment, killing Brianna. They arrested her boyfriend. There was no body cam footage. Kenneth has since been released and the charges against him dropped when all that first happened in mid-March.
The initial news reports told only one side of the story, referring to Brianna Taylor and Kenneth Walker only as suspects.
This was from the local NBC affiliate video of a deadly exchange of gunfire that happened between officers and suspects early this morning. One suspect is dead. An officer is recovering after. And when her family saw those stories, I was angry.
I was so angry. Oh, my gosh.
It still pisses me off. Just suspect, like, seriously. Unbelievable.
When when I read the article, I probably see more cuss words in that little time that I said throughout my whole life. Like angry is an understatement. Yeah. Like that is an understatement.
Oh, they think this first narrative of Brianna as a suspect could be one reason on top of covid-19 that most of the mortuaries they called refused to take her.
You know, it was part of the reason, like people were turning us away, like, you know, we're calling these charges and, you know, mortuaries. And they're like, it's just the young ladies. This is the incident, you know, that day. And I'm like, you know, yes. And I will get back with you and stuff like that. And it was just it was unbelievable.
Even though her name, attorney Lanita Baker, has been representing the family since even before Brianna Taylor's funeral, she's a personal injury lawyer who used to work as a prosecutor. The family hired her to file a suit against the police. And they're also pushing for policy changes around body cams and no knock warrants.
She went to Brianna's apartment as soon as she was allowed to even and been a prosecutor, but never quite seen that many bullets in one apartment to know and to see that bullets went through neighboring apartments as well. Afterwards, in talking to Kenny, when he told me where he was and he was laying on the floor right next to Brianna, it's only a supreme being that as a prime reason that he's still alive and able to talk to us about it.
And I do think that that reason is that we needed someone to tell us the story of what happened so that we could get the change that is needed.
So when protesters today say her name, Brianna's family and friends say they feel lifted up. At the same time, they have complicated feelings about the person they love, becoming a larger than life figure in death.
Is it weird to share your best friend with millions of people you've never met?
Yes, sir. Just a little bit, yeah. But you don't even know her. But it's wonderful. It's a blessing all in the same way. Thank you for, you know, acknowledging her and, you know, in loving her just off of what you date. But I actually knew her, you know, let's make that clear to my life. You don't know.
Brianna's aunts and uncle are still wrapping their heads around the fact that their niece, who they have known her whole life, is now a symbol, a hashtag never would think that her name would be added to this hashtag, hashtag or, you know, now you write and say her name.
You just think like how like why is she even and how does this happen? Like, in in a sense, we're grateful that her name is at where she should be, you know, unfortunately, in this situation. But, you know, we don't want this at all. We want we want her back. Right. Right, right. And I wish I were there. Just go back in time like. Yeah, it's crazy. Do you think something good will come of this?
So I'm praying to God. I said we need real change in America because it's scary. Like, I got to still raise a little black boy here in this world we live in. Yeah. Anybody. Nobody's safe. If this could happen to Brianna, it can happen to anybody.
Iranica Hunter was going through Briana's things after her death and found something she hadn't seen in years, a scrapbook page that Brianna made in high school memorializing their friendship.
This is our senior page from our scrapbook. It's the two of you. And like a bunch of different photos together. And then what does it say here in the corner? Iranica is like the sister, the same age as me that I've always wanted. She is the one who was always there right beside me when I need her.
Iranica sets the page and the tiny urn with some of Brianna's ashes next to each other on her kitchen table.
Yeah, there are issues. I know people think I'm so weird because, like, sometimes when I need a drink, I said I'm popular just like this and I talk to her doctor ASHers. Across town, there's another image of Brianna, it's a portrait drawn in chalk at the center of the protest in downtown Louisville. People gather in a circle around it chanting.
She always said that she will be a legend. I just I just never imagined it would be like this. Is that true? She said that, yes, I would be one of the greats with a legend. I got to remember me.
That was NPR's Ari Shapiro talking to the friends and family of Brianna Taylor. We've been hearing about George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and Ammad Aubrey because of nationwide protests and the calls for change. These three people inspired.
The protests began in Minneapolis the night that George Floyd died, then they continued into the next night and the night after that, I just woke up and they spread across the country into Los Angeles, Louisville and Atlanta.
By that weekend edition, Sunday, host Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke to some of the people call to action.
Here in D.C. There were multiple demonstrations. This national movement has drawn in many young people who are finding their voice for the first time. So a tweet was sent out by our founder. She was like, does anybody want to do a protest? And I was just like Cher. And I thought that it was just going to be a collective of maybe 10 people just going outside and just holding each other accountable. But it's built into something much, much bigger as we can see.
kErogEn Williams is 22. She's from Houston. She's a graduate student at Georgetown University. And when she saw that tweet, I just felt something activate and be like, OK, this is getting too close to home right now.
She actually knew George Floyd. They came from the same community in Houston.
He was really, really close to a few of my friends that I went to college with. One of my cousins was his football coach. So I'm in this moment because being from the community, it could be my cousin.
It could be the guy that I see at the corner store all the time. It could be anybody or it could have been her.
When she was a student at Sam Houston State University, I was walking in a residential neighborhood in Huntsville, Texas, right by my apartment building and college. And the police followed me the whole walk, the whole walk, just walking through the neighborhood, just trying to get some fresh air before I go back to sleep or go back to class or go back to work. They followed me the whole time. I didn't want to go home because I didn't want them to know, like, you know, where I lived.
But I went home, got in my car and drove back to Houston. That same officer followed me all the way back to Houston, which is a 45 minute drive.
And she says every single black person she knows has a story like that or much worse. It just made me feel kind of dehumanized. I know that that is just an experience for all black folks. When I say that, that you just feel subpar, subhuman, and feel like you have to be watched with everything that you do, even taking a walk in the park, you just have to be surveilled. And it just makes you feel like you aren't worthy of just living a normal life without being surveilled by the police.
That was Georgetown University graduate student kErogEn Williams talking to NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about what moved her to join the demonstrations.
The protests aren't limited to big cities. They're happening in towns as small as Bethel, Ohio, and protesters are getting a mixed reception. Lulu Garcia-Navarro talked with one organizer there.
My name is Alicia G and I'm one of the coordinators for that demonstration that happened in Bethel last Sunday.
Bethel is a town of fewer than 3000 people and nearly all the residents are white. She said she's always believed in the Black Lives Matter movement. And when she saw protests happening in other small towns, she thought it was time to have one in hers. I asked her, how did it go?
We made a Facebook post in our little towns, you know, Facebook group very quickly, the other side kind of.
Just kind of rose up. They were like, you can't come into my town and you can't you've got to protect in this narrative of us being an outsider coming in and and to destroy the town really took hold.
And then about an hour before we were due to start, we found out that where we were originally going to be standing was filled with just like motorcycle gangs and people with guns and just people who did not want us to be there.
There were around 800 counterdemonstrators. That's according to Bethel police. So this group of about 80 people moved a few blocks away. But it wasn't long until the counter protesters found them and gathered across the street.
Then a swarm of them came across the street at us and kind of surrounded us and were yelling, calling everyone all the names you could imagine they would call us. There was some pushing and there was sign snatching and ripping them up. And it became very clear that we had to get out of there very fast. It was very scary.
Alicia headed for her car, parked some distance away, but she soon came upon more trouble.
One of our high school demonstrators that was with us was being herded by like probably 10 big men. And she's like less than five feet tall. One of them had like a big machine gun. It felt like, I don't know, gun. So she was just like walking backwards, just keeping an eye on them and just walking really fast. I connected with her. And then another one of the people who was with us was already in her car and she yelled for us to get in and she drove us out.
And do you understand what it was that they were reacting to?
Did they think like has happened in other places, that there was misinformation, that you were antifa, or did they understand that this was a protest and they just didn't agree with the message?
There is definitely a lot of misinformation on their side. There was the misinformation that we were outsiders, that we were antifa, that we were looters, that we were rioters, and not just peaceful families that live in their community with them who wanted to show our solidarity, she said. There's been fallout in her small town this past week. Protesters have received threats. Her personal information was posted online. She's lost friends, but she says she's not deterred.
As I've said multiple times to the people who are with us and to my community, this was just the first step. Clearly, we illuminated a division that we have, but I don't think it's irreparable. I think that we can fix it. We are definitely energized and ready to move and grow from that.
That was Aleesha Game of Bethel, Ohio, talking with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro. All right, that's it for this Sunday edition of Up First, check back next week as we continue this series with the next episode, The System. And we'll be back again tomorrow with the news you need. This message comes from NPR sponsor Apple TV, plus with Boys State and Apple original film about a high school program whose alumni include a Supreme Court justice winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize.
Watch exclusively on Apple TV plus rated PG 13.