By Stefanie Jackson – A crowd of protesters who gathered in Exmore Town Park last Saturday evening stood silently for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that three Minneapolis police officers allowed a fourth to hold his knee on the neck of George Floyd, who died in police custody May 25.
“Justice for George Floyd” was organized by Kaliyah Diamond Weatherly, whose family lives in Exmore. Her goal was to protest “peacefully as we march and chant and show out for our black brothers and sisters against police brutality.”
Another protest was held earlier in the day in Accomac, where hundreds marched from the courthouse green to the library.
Northampton County Sheriff David Doughty and Exmore Police Chief Angelo DiMartino addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for coming out.
“Mr. Floyd should have never had that happen to him. It should never happen again to anyone, ever. No one should ever feel in danger or at risk of danger while in the custody of the police,” DiMartino said.
“Those officers – they don’t represent us. They don’t represent any of the officers that are here on the Eastern Shore that are here with you tonight. And we stand here with you all to give this message out, that it needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” he said.
Following the extended moment of silence, the group set out on its march through town.
Chants including “No justice – no peace!” were heard in the streets as the procession made its way up Main Street and turned onto Westfield Avenue.
Protesters shouted and raised signs bearing slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Make America Love Again” as they walked around the block, down Broad Street, and turned onto Bright Street before arriving back at the park.
Following the walk, speeches were given by Quintavion Washington, of Accomac, Dr. Arthur Carter, of Nassawadox, and the Rev. Kelvin Jones, also of Nassawadox and the pastor of First Baptist Church in Capeville.
Carter offered up nine words for the listeners’ reflection, one for each of the nearly nine minutes George Floyd lay on the ground with a police officer’s knee on his neck: truth, peace, justice, mercy, forgiveness; and organize, strategize, mobilize, and activize.
The first five words represented shared values of those protesting against racism, and the last four were actions that activists should continue.
“What I saw today was the embodiment of righteousness, of justice. Restorative justice policing,” Carter said. “I saw public safety officers right here, among us and with us, speaking to the horror” of racism and Floyd’s death.
“Even those who have done horrible things, let us provide mercy for them and to them, because all people, if they choose to, can transform,” Carter said.
He spoke in support of restorative justice in both law enforcement and education and noted that minorities are disproportionately sent into the “school-to-prison pipeline” and education is withheld from kids who are perceived as misbehaving.
“Let’s hold our school boards accountable. And if they aren’t doing, instituting restorative justice education, let’s get them out of office,” Carter said.
Jones made a case for citizens seeking change by voting. “When you vote, you can elect people who see the hearts and needs of their constituents and not the color of their skin. Elect people who genuinely love God, because if they love God, they will love the people that they’ve been elected to serve,” the pastor said.
“Elect people who will not be silent, will not be complicit but will shout it out that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Shout it that darkness can never drive out darkness, only light can do that,” he said.
“We’ll continue to work together, we’ll continue to pray together, we will continue to struggle together, but more importantly, we will continue to stand up against racism together and tell the world that enough is enough.”