'Not just a black thing anymore:' Wilmington protesters demand justice for George Floyd
For hours, they marched.
From Rodney Square to Wilmington Police headquarters, down across the Christina River and onto Interstate 95, protesters chanted, "No justice, no peace."
Some carried signs with George Floyd's name. Others donned t-shirts with the 46-year-old's last words: "I can't breathe." Still more waved flags and beat drums and screamed in protest, tired of black men and women dying at the hands of police.
On Saturday, as the late spring sun beat down on Wilmington, protesters took to city streets to demand justice for Floyd, the handcuffed black man who begged for his life as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes on Monday.
The march, which was organized by Food Not Bombs Wilmington and the city's Black Lives Matter movement, was one of dozens across the country this week protesting Floyd's death.
Though the four Minneapolis officers involved were fired almost immediately after video of Floyd's death surfaced on social media and prosecutors charged Officer Derek Chauvin, the man who knelt on Floyd's neck, with manslaughter and third degree murder, protestors say it's not enough — that more has to be done for Floyd.
In the days since the man's death, many rallies across the nation have turned violent, with protesters looting stores and setting cars ablaze.
In nearby Philadelphia, hundreds of protesters gathered at City Hall and knelt in silence before marching to the Museum of Art, where other protesters had gathered. At at least one police vehicle caught on fire.
But Wilmington's protest, which drew more than 1,000 people at its height, remained mostly peaceful Saturday afternoon — something organizers and attendees said they had hoped for.
It also drew people of all ages, genders and color, proof that "this is not just a black thing anymore," said 21-year-old Jazmine Church, who marched with friends and family.
"This has been going on for years — it's not like this is new," Church said. "I've been around to see these senseless killings happen, so it's good to see everybody participating, everyone upset. It's time for them to stop."
For decades, communities of color have demanded an end to the racism they say they experience on a day-to-day basis.
Time and time again, they've said they are tired of their men and women being targeted or killed by police, and are fed up with using social media hashtags to remember victims such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor.
Floyd's death, the most recent incident in a week of already-increased racial tensions, brought those frustrations to a head, which was made evident Saturday as Wilmington protesters confronted police at various points during their march.
Outside Wilmington Police headquarters, one woman destroyed the department's wooden sign, and another protester smashed the windshield of a patrol car. Some shouted "f--- the police," and others yelled in officers' faces.
But the officers took it in stride, telling protesters that they, too, were outraged by Floyd's death.
"That incident that happened out in Minneapolis, goddamnit, that set us back 20 or 30 years," Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy said. "It opened up a lot of wounds and rightfully so, and you know what? We got to let people express that anger.
"But we got to make sure they do it peacefully. We can't be having people throw rocks at buildings, and that's what I'm trying to prevent."
Though protesters grew more rowdy as the day wore on, they remained largely peaceful during afternoon hours, even when confronting Delaware State Police on I-95. Troopers had set up a fleet of patrol vehicles to block off the highway north of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard on-ramp.
The troopers held long guns, which protesters decried as unnecessary. Why were they armed, when the protesters were not?, many said.
"Am I supposed to be afraid of you?" one woman yelled.
The crowd stirred, breaking into chants at times and airing grievances to the troopers at others.
Then, in a moment of truce, the confrontation was over.
The troopers agreed to store their weapons in the patrol cars. The crowd broke out into applause. Almost in unison, they turned and marched off the highway, back into the city's downtown.
As the crowd dispersed from the interstate, Kiyoko Barbour sat along the curb with a friend. She said she attended the demonstration because she fears her son, as a young black person, lives in danger from others in the city and the police.
While George Floyd’s death sparked Saturday’s action, such situations happen across the country, she said, and have been replayed for generations.
“It’s terrible to raise black kids in America because you’re scared every day,” Barbour said as she began to weep.
Wilmington resident Bertrand Morales echoed Barbour.
Walking just behind the crowd that had moved from the highway and was heading to Market Street, he looked around. As he took in the scene — his first protest — he commiserated with his fellow ralliers.
"A lot of people are fed up, and this is what it's come to," Morales said. "These (killings) should have ended a long time ago. It's time to change."
Reporters Jeanne Kuang and Karl Baker contributed to this report.
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