Peaceful protests against police brutality continued Wednesday evening in Manhattan’s City Park, with a crowd of a couple hundred people, mostly clad in black and wielding signs demanding change.
The line of protesters marched the perimeter of the park, shouting “I can’t breathe” and other chants. Drivers honked and raised their fists outside windows as they passed, and a handful of Riley County police officers monitored the event.
At the end of the march and as some of the crowd began to disperse, more than 30 protesters laid on the ground with their hands behind their backs, demonstrating the eight minutes and 46 seconds that George Floyd was pinned down on the ground before dying under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
The nationwide protests were sparked by Floyd’s recent death. On May 25, Minneapolis police officers pinned Floyd, a black man, down to the ground after he was accused of fraud. One officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed on Floyd’s neck with his knee, even after the man complained of not being able to breathe and lost consciousness.
The Minnesota Attorney General on Wednesday announced that prosecutors upgraded Chauvin’s charge from third-degree murder to second-degree murder. They also filed charges against the three other officers at the scene — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Taneika Nicole, a co-organizer of the protest, said she is exhausted, both emotionally and physically, from seeing the ongoing violence against black people.
“Now is not the time to pump the breaks,” she said. “It’s not enough. We need to get past the point where they’re trying to pacify us and get us back to where we’re quiet, so that they can maintain the status quo. We can’t be lulled back into silence because if we are, we can never, ever be truly free. It’s been 400 years (since slaves first arrived in the U.S.), and we are still not free.”
Though smaller than Tuesday’s crowd of about 2,000 people, co-organizer Emmiley Springfield said she was thankful to see how many showed up.
“This is beautiful,” said Springfield, who is black. “This is what we needed. This is what the community needed.”
RCPD Director Dennis Butler said at a meeting with members of the media Wednesday that although the protests technically violate the state’s mass gatherings order, officers are not interested in arresting people for doing so. He said ever since the pandemic reached the county, police have been focused on educating people or asking them to break up groups, which people have been receptive to.
Addressing the crowd, Barry Park, pastor at University Christian Church, said people should no longer tolerate indifference in this matter.
He said he was unaware of the prejudice around him until a friend of his, a black man, showed him how he was treated suspiciously when trying to return a pair of pants at a store.
“We’re just indifferent and we don’t even notice,” said Park, who is white. “... Indifference is something we cannot handle in society because all it takes for evil to conquer — you know the old statement — is for good people to do nothing.”