“I can’t breathe.”
“No justice, no peace.”
“Black lives matter.”
“Justice for all.”
These are some of the phrases chanted by people of different races and ethnicities while peacefully protesting Friday and Saturday in Manhattan in response to the death of George Floyd. Floyd, an African-American man, died Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, knelt on his neck for several minutes. Before he died, Floyd told Chauvin, “I can’t breathe.”
About 150 people, several of them wearing masks because of the coronavirus outbreak, gathered at Triangle Park on Saturday morning and marched down Bluemont Avenue. The group chanted and held signs while marching several blocks to Juliette Avenue before returning back to Triangle Park.
JahVelle Rhone, a saxophonist and associate pastor at Manhattan Christian Fellowship Church, along with Trumanue Lindsey Jr., the director of diversity and multicultural student life at K-State, organized the demonstration. Groups in various U.S. cities have held protests to advocate for justice in the aftermath of Floyd’s death while also bringing up other instances of black people killed by police.
On Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers fired after Floyd’s death haven’t been charged.
Rhone and Lindsey said they are tired of seeing their black friends and family dying at the hands of law enforcement.
“Today, I’m a black man, and I’m hurting,” Rhone told the demonstrators. “And I’m reaching out to my community because there are truly issues and social issues and some injustices that continue to happen time after time after time after time. And I’m disturbed. I’m disturbed and I’m troubled.”
Lindsey, who is originally from Minnesota, said this has been a difficult week for him. He has lived in Manhattan for the past year and a half.
“So what’s been more frustrating to me is having to be here while my people, literally my people, are back home suffering,” he said.
“Minnesota, home grown, that’s where I’m from,” he continued. “So that’s in my backyard, the twin cities. It hurts me; it hurts me. And this isn’t the first time.”
He talked about Philando Castile, who Lindsey said he grew up with. Castile was shot in 2016 by a police officer in St. Anthony, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was found not guilty of manslaughter.
“So me watching the video on Tuesday, that’s probably the second worse thing that I’ve seen in my life,” Lindsey said. “The first worst thing is me seeing a close friend of mine bleed out on Facebook Live because he was shot by a police officer.”
Rhone, who is also the media development center supervisor and technology trainer at K-State, led a prayer before and after the demonstration.
Recent K-State graduate Zanaiya Peebles, who is from St. Louis, talked about racist incidents during her time at the university, including two fans making an allusion to the Ku Klux Klan with white ponchos during a football game.
“I am more than happy to see you all here today,” Peebles said. “But keep this same energy when stuff happens at K-State. I was a freshman in 2016. In 2016, a young girl had blackface. My sophomore year, I was the one walking and I seen a noose in the tree. My junior year, some girls were at the football game with KKK hoods. And y’all think I’m not angry? Y’all don’t think we have a right to be angry?
“And then, you guys think the marches in front of Anderson, we’re family, right? But the family is quiet whenever anything happens,” she continued. “Every single time.”
Peebles said she prays for her family and friends in Manhattan that they will be able to come safely home every day.
“I have a black father, I have black brothers, black uncles, black cousins and I pray so hard every day,” she said. “‘Lord, just let them make it home.’ Because it’s a possibility that they won’t. I pray for my black friends in Manhattan because there’s a possibility they won’t make it home.”
Fanny Fang, a partner at the Asian Marker in Manhattan, attended the demonstration Saturday. Fang, who is running for a spot on the Riley County Commission, encouraged people to take the pain they experienced from Floyd’s death this week and change it into progress forward for black people.
“We need to move that pain into progress,” Fang said.
Fang also donated several masks for people to wear during the demonstration.
About 20 people attended a smaller protest Friday evening in Manhattan. People stood along Bluemont Avenue with signs. Manhattan resident Shahtiah Campbell, who has family in Minnesota, was among the people demonstrating Friday, holding a sign stating, “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter.”
“We want to show people we’re strong and have a voice,” Campbell said.
Allison Jasso of Moundridge made the more than one and a half hour trip Friday to Manhattan because she said there were no demonstrations going on near her town.
“There weren’t any protests near me, but I was so frustrated and angry at what I’d be seeing,” she said.
“I am not black, but that doesn’t matter because everyone should care,” she continued.
Another protest is planned in Manhattan on Tuesday at Triangle Park, beginning at 6:30 p.m., according to an event listing on Facebook.