USA, Rochester, New York – For the second weekend in a row since America witnessed the murder of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, hundreds attended a peaceful protest organized by Black Lives Matter, a decentralized grassroots organization founded in 2013.
The vast majority of the protesters were white allies, carrying signs and chanting in response to the organizer’s pleas for justice, which began with “Say their names.” More than a dozen names of Black Americans who have been victims of police brutality ripped through the blue skies. “We are the experts of our own lives, and it’s up to you [white allies] to push harder, be uncomfortable, and ask how you can make change.” One of the organizers asked for all the Black people to come to the front. Several dozen protesters stepped forward. The organizer then invited all the white allies to surround them. “This is what you can do,” he said. “You can use your body to defend Black bodies.”
The crowd erupted into another chant of “Silence is violence. Silence is compliance.”
Another of four speakers gave a eulogy in honor of Mr. Floyd, emphasizing that this man was nothing important by American standards, low income, living in the “hood,” and doing his best to get by. But that “God turned a nobody into a somebody.”
“Vote! Vote! Vote!” was the resounding reply.
In attendance with his wife and two sons was Bobby Douglas, age 49, a lifelong resident of Rochester, New York. “I do everything I can to avoid the police [as a Black man]. I have seen how the police treat two drunk people totally different. They see a Black man drunk and they will arrest him, but a White guy, they call him a cab.” This is the first protest Bobby ever attended, and he said that what needs to change is accountability. “How is it that these officers can turn off their body cameras? Why can’t we all just be treated the same, fairly? I don’t want anything from you but the same chance to make it. How does leaving anyone behind make you feel better? We need to prosper together. “Floyd, age 46, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 for buying cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. While in police custody, Floyd was pinned to the pavement by Officer Derek Chauvin, an eighteen- year veteran of the force with eighteen complaints filed against him. A seventeen-year old by-stander took video of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck until Floyd became unresponsive.
The video of Floyd’s death went viral and tens of thousands of Americans have flooded the streets every day since the arrest.
The protest in downtown Rochester lasted for more than two hours and was followed by 8 minutes and 46 seconds to mark the time that white Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck as Floyd cried, “I can’t breathe.” Chauvin has been arrested for 2nd degree murder, an unintentional murder in the act of committing a felony. Black Lives Matter and numerous other grassroots organizations are calling for the most severe 1st degree murder charge, for which willful premeditation must be proven.
The protesters have seen several of their demands met, including a ban on the use of neck restraint and choke-holds by Minneapolis law enforcement and the arrest of the three officers who stood by while their colleague committed murder.