Approximately 2,000 people marched down Bluemont Ave. under police protection Tuesday evening to protest the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died last week after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Despite reports on the event’s Facebook page of a man threatening people in the area, the protest largely remained peaceful.
Jaynae Cole, a Manhattan resident who organized the protest with fellow Manhattan resident Teresa Parks, was sure to emphasize her desire for the event to turn out differently from other protests that ended in a breakdown of peace.
“It’s a lot of rioting, a lot of looting, a lot of fires getting started,” Cole said. “We came here for peace. And I am so glad and I thank the lord to unite us like this.”
During the march, which went back and forth between Triangle Park and Juliette Ave., protesters could be heard chanting phrases such as “black lives matter” and “I can’t breath.”
Prior to the protesters taking to the streets, people gathered in Triangle Park at 6:30 p.m. to listen to a line up of speakers which included Dennis Butler, the Riley Count Police Department director.
During his speech, Butler discussed the importance of trust between citizens and police officers.
“For us to be effective, for us to have your confidence, you have to believe that when we go out and take an official action, that it’s justified,” Butler said. “That we did it because someone broke the law and we have sworn to uphold the law and protect you.”
Butler also reflected on his own time as a police officer, saying the officers he used to work with and those that he currently knows are not the same type as those who were involved in Floyd’s death.
Joining Butler in speaking to the crowd was Jahvelle Rhone, a local minister.
Rhone talked about his own experiences with racial injustice and the work that still needs to be done regarding racial issues.
“Until we can fully say ‘black lives matter,’ then we still have a problem in our system,” Rhone said. “Whether it be morally, whether it be justly (or) unjustly, we still have a problem.”