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“It actually broke my heart”: George Floyd’s last words projected onto Memorial Union

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George Floyd Last Words Memorial
George Floyd's last words are displayed on the side of Memorial Union in Madison.

MADISON (WKOW) -- The side of Memorial Union was lit up Thursday night by a continuous scroll of the last words George Floyd said while ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck.

The event was a collaboration between community leader and Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson and the Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee.

Johnson said he was inspired by a similar event in Portland and wanted to bring the message to Madison.

"No matter what your position might be on this issue, George Floyd should still be alive today," he said.

Natalia Lugovskaya, the director of the Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee, said the group supported the display because they promised earlier this year to continue having conversations about racial injustice.

"These conversations need to be happening all the time," she said. "In his final moments, George Floyd was not heard. He was met with indifference from police officers. With this, we hope to honor his life and remember him."

Johnson said he wanted people to see the exact words Floyd said because of the impact he felt from hearing them.

"When I read his actual transcript of what he said, it actually broke my heart," Johnson said.

Several other community leaders joined Johnson. Many of them were Black men around the same age as Floyd.

"We are George Floyd," Johnson said. "They are George Floyd."

One of those men was Alan Robinson. He said he's upset by recent events tied to police violence, including Chauvin posting bond and Wednesday's developments in Wauwatosa.

"I can't breathe, and the pressure isn't letting up," Robinson said.

Robinson said he didn't expect Thursday's display to create any substantial change. However, he said it is important for people to continually bring attention to issues they care about because nothing will change if they don't.

"While I may not see change in my lifetime, I will fight for change until I am no longer breathing," he said.

Lugovskaya said the display is tied to another art installation opening tomorrow. Photographs from protests over the summer will be displayed in Union South on UW-Madison's campus.

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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