Justice March for George Floyd in Monroe Thursday morning on June 4, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Justice March for George Floyd in Monroe Thursday morning on June 4, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

‘There is something better on the other side of this,’ says Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom

The tenor of the protests set off by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police has taken a turn from the explosive anger that has fueled the setting of fires, breaking of windows and other violence to a quiet, yet more forceful, grassroots call for more to be done to address racial injustice.

Many of the protests were more subdued for a second night as marches turned into memorials for Floyd, who was the focus of a heartfelt tribute Thursday in Minneapolis that drew family members, celebrities, politicians and civil rights advocates. At his service, strong calls were made for meaningful changes in policing and the criminal justice system.

And in a sign protesters’ voices are being heard, more symbols of slavery and the Confederacy came down. Alabama’s port city of Mobile removed a statue of a Confederate naval officer early Friday after days of protests there, while Fredericksburg, Virginia, removed a 176-year-old slave auction block from downtown after several years of efforts by the NAACP. Other Confederate symbols have come down around the South in recent days as calls to remove them intensified during protests over Floyd’s death.

Also Friday, in Jacksonville , Florida, a large group of players, coaches, front office officials from the city’s NFL teams and their families wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts as they walked from TIAA Bank Field to the sheriff’s office headquarters to raise awareness of racial injustice.

At demonstration sites around the country, protesters said the quieter mood is the result of several factors: the new and upgraded criminal charges against the police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest; a more conciliatory approach by police who have marched with them or taken a knee to recognize their message; and the realization that the burst of rage after Floyd’s death is not sustainable.

“Personally, I think you can’t riot everyday for almost a week,” said Costa Smith, 26, who was protesting in downtown Atlanta.

Despite the shift in tone, protesters have shown no sign that they are going away and, if anything, are emboldened to stay on the streets to push for police reforms.

In New York City, Miguel Fernandes said there were “a lot more nights to go” of marching because protesters hadn’t got what they wanted. And Floyd’s brother Terrence appeared in Brooklyn to carry on the fight for change, declaring “power to the people, all of us.”

At the first in a series of memorials for Floyd, the Rev. Al Sharpton urged those gathered Thursday “to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’” Those at the Minneapolis tribute stood in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds — the amount of time Floyd was alleged to be on the ground under the control of police.

Sharpton vowed that this will become a movement to “change the whole system of justice.”

As the protests have taken root over the past week, they have become communities unto themselves.

In New York, where residents have been stuck at home for nearly three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, residents who can’t go to restaurants are happy to be able to go a protest. People bring their dogs and share snacks and water bottles. They have been heartened by police who have joined them.

“It’s great to be alive, it’s history right now,” said protester Kenyata Taylor.

In Atlanta, protester Nate Saint carried a sign that encouraged people to vote. He attributed the reduction in violence in part to police.

“Cops are recognizing that the more passive they become, the more receptive, the more they listen, the less the protesters are going to react,” he said.

A group of protesters stood near a line of police and National Guard troops. Some cursed officers. Others were seen talking to the officers. It was a different scene from last Friday, when the city experienced widespread vandalism and looting following a peaceful demonstration.

There were still skirmishes in the Bronx and elsewhere. In Buffalo, a police commissioner suspended two officers after video from WBFO showed a man being shoved after walking up to police as they were enforcing a curfew Thursday night. The man appeared to hit his head on the pavement and blood leaked out as officers walked past. The man was hospitalized.

But in Texas, protesters cheered as Fort Worth officers joined the front of a march. Police in Austin also walked with dozens of members of the University of Texas football team as they made their way from campus to the state capitol to honour Floyd’s memory. Once there, the group and police officers took a knee for nine minutes.

“This protest won’t just stop here,” junior safety Caden Sterns said. “To the white community … if you want change like you say you do, you must change. What I mean is, you must realize, and the oppressor must realize, you are oppressing.”

Protesters in some cities have seen support from the police growing. There have been instances of police kneeling and earlier this week in New York City, the crowd chanted for the officers who were standing in the distance to join them. One eventually did and told them they have support if they remain peaceful.

In Atlanta on Thursday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms walked with protesters downtown and told the crowd through a megaphone that “there is something better on the other side of this.”

“We are in the midst of a movement in this country,” she said. “But it’s going to be incumbent upon all of us to be able to get together and articulate more than our anger. We got to be able to articulate what we want as our solutions.”

Mahoney reported from New York. AP journalists contributed reporting from around the United States.

Sudhin Thanawala And Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press

protest

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 exposure at The Key, weather shelter announced in Fort St. James

Northern Health made the public service announcement Dec. 1

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Pipe stringing work in Section 4. (Coastal GasLink photo/Lakes District News)
Pipe installation begins from south of Burns Lake to north of Vanderhoof

Coastal Gas Link’s November update indicates 528 additional workers

Vanderhoof Community Foundation logo.
Donate in your loved one’s name this Giving Tuesday: Vanderhoof Community Foundation

Today, Dec. 1 is celebrated as Giving Tuesday, a global movement for… Continue reading

Annerose Georgeson in the process of painting a mural at the Stuart Nechako Manor in July. While she was working on the mural, a nurse and a senior living at the Manor were enjoying the live painting. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof artist completes mural at the Manor

A Vanderhoof artist has finished her mural at a local long-term care… Continue reading

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

Most Read