Annapolis protesters gathered at the Alex Haley memorial in downtown Annapolis Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man killed after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, according to video of the incident.
Floyd’s death has sparked protests across the country, including in Baltimore where several dozen protesters marched through the city Friday. More protests are scheduled in the city for Saturday and Monday. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis cop fired after the incident, was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter four days after Floyd’s death during which time protests included damaging property and clashes with police and other bystanders.
Floyd’s death was disappointing and disgusting, said Alderman DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6. The incident was filmed by a bystander, showing the length of time Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“We have to stand together for solidarity to let people know that we’re not satisfied with it,” Gay said. “I think it speaks for itself. It was disappointing. That was disgusting to see.”
Protesters gathered at City Dock — where slaves were once unloaded — with plans to march throughout Annapolis and finish at Whitmore Park — the site hosting a marker memorializing lynchings across the county. The march started at noon. As the protesters walked through the city — many of them wearing face masks as recommended by health officials — they chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “I can’t breathe." The latter line was said by Floyd before he went limp as well as Eric Garner, a New York black man also killed in police custody.
“As a teacher, I live in constant fear," said Rachel Edlich, who teaches preschool in Anne Arundel County. “I have children that I take care of, and I don’t want to have to be afraid that if they go out somewhere that they’re going to get hurt.”
As the march ascended the top of Main Street, some onlookers left the sidewalk to join the movement.
Crowds were obviously larger than state-mandated gathering limits, but police did not get involved dispersing the crowd as the protest remained peaceful throughout the walk. Police exercised similar restraint when Marylanders protested Gov. Larry Hogan’s lockdown orders.
Bowie State student Nailah Mitchell helped organize the march. Mitchell said the event was a step toward consistency in recognizing that change is needed.
“I’ve never seen a gathering like this ... in support not just of our city but nationwide,” she said. “It’s important that we are unified. We are human beings, we are not meant to separate. We’re supposed to come together as a community.”
Mayor Gavin Buckley and other local leaders spoke out this week on the killing. County Executive Steuart Pittman went as far as calling a press conference to address the incident.
“The horrific events that took place a few days ago in Minneapolis are deplorable and unacceptable. What George Floyd experienced was not normal police procedure,” Buckley said. “No one should suffer such brutality. Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Floyd and to the people of Minneapolis. Annapolis shares your struggle for justice.”
Buckley spoke at the end of the march at Whitmore Park, where in 2019 the city dedicated a historical marker commemorating the five African Americans who were lynched across Anne Arundel County. The mayor read off the names of people who have died at the hands of police.
“George Floyd ... Breonna Taylor ... Trayvon Martin. I say their names so we won’t forget," he said.
Michael Lewis, of Annapolis, attended the protest with his family to show unity for black people and people of color, Lewis said, “and quite frankly injustice of the poor and the downtrodden."
“Historically, it is no question that the black community has been absorbing the brunt of that,” he said. “I wanted to let people know that their lives matter, especially young black men. And in this case, black older men.”
Floyd was 46.
Among the many speakers at Whitmore Park, Annapolis resident Harold Lloyd III, a recent graduate of Frostburg State University, called on his generation to take up the mantle of change around racial equality.
“I’ve been aware of this since middle school. I have been witnessing black lives die at the hands of police officers,” Lloyd said. “It’s a repetitive pattern, and all we want is justice.
“It makes us think, ‘Do our lives really matter?’ There’s no reason that a black teenager should go outside and feel scared that he might not come back home with his life.”