This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Daysi Calavia-Robertson, Matthew Chayes, Randee Daddona, Keldy Ortiz and Dandan Zou. It was written by Brodsky
One year after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, setting off months of protests and a nationwide debate about the role of policing in minority communities, the father of five was remembered Tuesday with protests, rallies and prayers across Long Island and New York City.
Roxanne Rapelyea of Islip said she cried when she saw the video of then-Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground.
"I wept for a man I never even met," said Rapelyea, who wore a shirt reading "Inspire Change" during a prayer vigil in Huntington. "I didn’t know at the time but there’s many more after him. Before and after. It was an inhuman way to die and it didn’t have to happen. It shook me to my core."
Rapelyea was one of four dozen who gathered on the somber anniversary to reflect and remember.
"Before his name became a hashtag, he was a human being; he was a father; he was a son; he was a brother; he was a friend," said Veronique Bailey, president of the NAACP in Huntington. "The world heard his continuous pleas and we took to the streets."
Victoria Marchetta, 25, of Northport said she was disappointed how little things have changed since Floyd’s death.
"It’s sad that a life was lost. It’s sad [that] many more were lost since last year," said Marchetta, a graduate student at LIU Post who attended more than two dozen protests last year on Long Island and New York City. " … I wish there’s more progress."
Rabbi Lina Zerbarini of Kehillath Shalom Synagogue in Cold Spring Harbor urged attendees to take a stone with them. In Jewish tradition, mourners leave a stone on a headstone on the anniversary of a loved ones' death.
"Bring it home with you as a symbol of your own commitment and your own remembrance," Zerbarini said.
In Setauket, about 120 people carried signs reading "We remember you George Floyd" and "We believe Black Lives Matter" while delivering impassioned speeches calling for change.
"Silence won’t protect you," said Linda Anderson, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook.
Others read quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, recited psalms in Hebrew and English, chanted a Muslim prayer song and remembered the names of other Black men and women killed by law enforcement.
"We must remember George Floyd is just one name in a long list of people who have been wronged and killed in cold blood," said Imam Abdullah of the Islamic Association of Long Island.
The Rev. Gregory Leonard, of Bethel AME Church asked participants to touch their feet to confirm their commitment of "walking with one another."
At Clinton Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greenport, 150 people gathered to remember Floyd's impact.
"It wasn't right what happened and it shouldn't have happened," Jahmeek Freeman, 16, of Greenport, said of Floyd's murder. "It really shocked the world and turned the world."
In lower Manhattan dozens picketed outside NYPD headquarters, cursing at a police sergeant guarding the building. "Shame!" the group shouted.
Floyd, 46, who was Black, died May 25, 2020, after Chauvin knelt on his neck, pinning him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last month of murder and faces sentencing June 25. Three other fired officers still face trial.
At Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park — where tens of thousands gathered last year to see Terrence Floyd speak 10 days after his brother's killing — several hundred commemorated the anniversary of the death. Choirs, bands and performers memorialized Floyd and assailed policing, with several demanding the end of police.
"George Floyd was his name! We remember him today! They killed him dead and underground! Ain’t no justice in this town!" a man sang, the crowd singing along after each line.
The group marched to the Brooklyn Museum, where some climbed the building’s front stairs, and led the group in still more chant and song, a portrait of Floyd held aloft.
Most sat on the ground below, listening and cheering and responding when told.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, the NYPD was back en masse at sites of last year’s unrest: shutting down street near the Barclays Center; flying a police helicopter near the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and the staging vans along 4th Avenue near Bergen Street.
Outside Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, 30 community members gathered for a candlelight vigil.
Sharon Golden of the Together We Will Long Island said while "we’re here to honor" Floyd, "we cannot just stop here. We need police accountability."
Jeremy Joseph of Long Island United to Transform Police and Community Safety said justice is a long fight.
"There have been many George Floyds in the past, there will be more George Floyds in the future," he said. "We’re all here tonight because we all want these names to be attached to people who are all living."