They gathered Tuesday night in a small field at Bishop Square Park, about 100 people remembering George Floyd as cars drove past and the sun slowly set. The group marked the year since Floyd died at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer, and there was consensus among those attending that it was important to put action behind their words.
They talked during the interfaith vigil about why commemorating Floyd’s life matters.
Megan Powell-Rivers of the Episcopal Service Corps in Baltimore has attended other events that have called attention to Floyd’s killing and denounced police brutality, including one in New York weeks after he was killed.
She looked at Tuesday night’s vigil as a reminder of why she chose to make her voice heard then.
“It was obvious that a lot of people care about this issue. I think it was really great to see that people are still mourning and that this is an issue that still needs awareness,” Powell-Rivers, 24, said. “I think we all share that common need for equality and to hold police officers accountable.”
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh also attended.
Harrison walked to the front of the steps where a Confederate statue once stood, not the first time he has attended a gathering to support equality, sometimes in front of those protesting police.
A year ago during a Black Lives Matters protest, the commissioner and other Baltimore officers took a knee with demonstrators, an action that has been cited across the nation as an example of how police forces and officers should respond to people peacefully marching against police brutality and calling for equity.
“You have the right to have an expectation of a department that serves you with dignity and respect. With humility, with professionalism, with courage and honor,” Harrison told the crowd. “Tough on crime, not tough on people. Tough on behavior. Not tough on people.”
When former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted last month on murder and manslaughter charges, many officials in Maryland applauded the jury’s verdict.
Among those was Frosh, who within days called for a review of all police in-custody deaths handled by former State Chief Medical Examiner David Fowler, who testified on behalf of Chauvin’s defense team.
The Floyd verdict provided hope to many in Baltimore that justice can be achieved.
Adam Jackson, the CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, talked about that hope, and emphasized the work to be done by many after protests end. He called on demonstrators to imagine what justice would look like for their own city, and their own daily lives.
“It’s always convenient to say, ‘Hey let’s go to a protest, let’s tweet, let’s talk about it.’ But power requires commitment. You have to actually commit to giving Black people power,” Jackson said.
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“If we want to change the trajectory of Baltimore as it relates to crime and criminal justice, then we have to give resources so Black people are able to do so.”