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

One person was extricated from a vehicle that rolled off Highway 97 Feb. 25, 2021, near Clerke Road in Coldstream around 2 p.m. (Roger Knox - Vernon Morning Star)
Two hurt in Highway 97 rollover south of Vernon

Ambulance transfers two patients with non-life-threatening injuries

The District of Lake Country and BC Transit would like the public’s feedback on how to improve the Kelowna Regional Transit System for Lake Country. (File photo)
Lake Country residents asked for transit feedback

District and BC Transit seeking ways to improve Kelowna transit system for Lake Country residents

Ryan Oliberius is Respect Works Here Community Champion of the month February 2021. (Contributed)
Community Champion: Youngest OKIB council member listens to heart, follows dreams

28-year-old Ryan Oliverius was working a welding job when he realized he ‘had to take responsibility for my own decisions’

Veteran Vernon radio announcer Frank Martina is returning to the local airwaves with his popular Saturday Classics show, which will run from 1-4 p.m. on Vernon’s new community station Valley FM, set to launch in the fall of 2021. (Morning Star - file photo)
Vernon radio announcer returning to airwaves

New community station Valley FM reaches deal with Frank Martina to air his Classics show

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)
UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

The Salmon Arm Economic Development Society released a video on Feb. 22, 2021 promoting agriculture and food production in Salmon Arm and the Shuswap. (SAEDS image)
New video promotes Salmon Arm staples of agriculture, food production

Three-minute video from economic development featuring local producers receives appreciative reviews

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A puppy stolen from a West Kelowna residence has been reunited with its family. (Kelowna RCMP)
Stolen puppy reunited with Central Okanagan owners

A happy ending; puppy stolen from West Kelowna vehicle found in Kelowna, returned to family

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Most Read