George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by a former white Minneapolis police officer, will now have a home in Newark’s City Hall in New Jersey in the form of a massive statue.
On Wednesday, June 16, Mayor Ras Baraka, actor and filmmaker Leon Pickney, and artist Stanley Watts unveiled the 700-pound bronze sculpture of Floyd in what appeared to be a tank top and pants sitting on a bench.
In a statement to the news outlet, the mayor expressed that “Hopefully when people walk by, and they see it, and they participate, hopefully, it inspires them to become active in the struggles that are happening right here in Newark and right here in New Jersey.”
As previously reported, Floyd died in May 2020 after Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on the 46-year-old’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds as he and two other officers pinned him down during an arrest over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd’s death sparked outrage and protests in all 50 states and several other countries. In April 2021, a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The 45-year-old faces up to 40 years in prison.
The George Floyd statue was commissioned by Pickney, sculpted by Watts, and donated to the city this week as part of a partnership with the Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs. Pickney told the news outlet that he wanted to have the statue in Newark to honor Floyd’s humanity, hoping that it would serve as a reminder for why people called for change — along with protest, Floyd’s death caused many to objectively revisit the discussion on police reform in America.
“The statue was to cause them to remember why they marched during such a horrific pandemic, and I didn’t want them to go back to a status quo,” Pickney told reporters. “The world needed a peaceful George,” Watts added. “The world needed him relaxed and chilling on a bench, and that’s what we produced, and we produced him larger than life because, after death, George will be remembered. That’s what memorials are. To remember and never forget why we changed today and tomorrow and for the rest of our existence on this planet.”
The tribute will stay outside of City Hall for at least a year. The ceremony also served as a tribute to Juneteenth, which is on Saturday, June 19. The oldest Black holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, became a federal holiday on Thursday, June 17, after President Joe Biden signed the just-passed Juneteenth National Independence Day bill into law.