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Thousands marched in Phoenix against police brutality a year ago. So, what's changed since?

A community activist shared what's changed in Phoenix since the protests against police brutality and racial injustice last year.

PHOENIX — At this time last year, the voices of protesters marching against systemic racism and police brutality in downtown Phoenix echoed the collective anger felt by the country following the death of George Floyd at the knee of Minneapolis police. 

“Here is where the majority of the protests took place. Where a lot of the conversations and dialogue and education took place through quite literally the middle of the city,” said We Rising Director Jacob Raiford as he stood in the middle of Cesar Chavez Plaza. 

Raidford led many of those conversations surrounding policing in the Valley. 

“A lot of us came out here because we were hurt, confused, angry - justifiably - about what’s continuing to happen in our communities, that plague our society, and we wanted to provide some sort of resolution.” 

On the same day George Floyd was killed by former police officer Derek Chauvin, a controversial use-of-force case was playing out in Phoenix.

Demonstrators were also demanding justice for Dion Johnson who was killed by a DPS trooper on the same day.

The majority of marches in Phoenix were peaceful, and days into demonstrators taking to the street, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams joined them in solidarity. 

RELATED: Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams sits down with Mark Curtis for 1-on-1 discussion

Promises made by Phoenix Police

“We are going to work together; we are going to look at policy," said Williams to hundreds of demonstrators last June. "We are going to work together and make change. We are going to work together on the killings. We are going to work together, but I need you guys to give us some time.”

But actions speak louder than words. 

During the early days of protesting, Phoenix Police arrested more than 120 other protesters for "felony rioting." 

Those charges were later dismissed after judges tossed out the cases for lacking sufficient evidence. A class-action lawsuit was filed against the department for falsely arresting hundreds of protestors using a copy-and-paste statement as probable cause. 

“Something I think about every single day. Stepping out. Out of frustration. I was tired. I just wanted to utilize my voice,” said activist Percy Christian. In a separate arrest, he spent nine days in a Phoenix jail following a demonstration. The Maricopa County District Attorney's office also dropped his charges. 

RELATED: Class action lawsuit filed against Phoenix for falsely arresting hundreds of protesters

There have been changes in Phoenix

Since last year, calls for the city to change policing have remained loud and We Rising and NOCAP have called for a neighborhood crisis assistance program that would respond to non-violent calls instead of officers. 

“We want a new department that would specialize in things like behavioral health, substance abuse, that would look at these calls and dispatches that have historically led to police brutality,” said Raiford. 

The Phoenix City Council recently established the Office of Accountability and Transparency, providing civilian oversight to police. 

“We may put these initiatives in place, but how well will they be implemented,” said Christian. 

Raiford says that is a step in the fight for accountability but hopes a year from now the city will have done more. “Hopefully we will look back on this year and say that we made some pretty drastic steps that were in advocacy of a better stronger more equitable Arizona." 

RELATED: Phoenix council creates city's first civilian review office for alleged police misconduct

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