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‘Be the change’: March and rally in Edgewood honors George Floyd and Harford homicide victims

Chadd Moses raised his fist in support Sunday evening as demonstrators marched along the shoulder of Route 40 in Edgewood, holding signs and chanting slogans such as “No justice, no peace,” and “Enough is enough,” in honor of Minneapolis resident George Floyd and other unarmed African American men and women who have died at the hands of police across the United States.

Participants walked for about a mile along Route 40 from the Edgewater Village shopping center — departing shortly after 5 p.m. — to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct headquarters near the intersection with Route 152. The marchers, who were escorted by Sheriff’s Office deputies in patrol vehicles at their front and rear, received honks of support from many motorists on the highway.

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Moses, a security guard at the LKQ Pick Your Part salvage yard, stood with his fist in the air as the marchers went by.

“I want justice, I want peace and I want it now,” he said, noting that police misconduct, as well as crime, must stop, but added, “police brutality cannot be a part of stopping crime.”

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The multiracial crowd, which included adults and a number of young children, gathered in the Southern Precinct parking lot for a rally after the march. The crowd numbered about 80 people — some chose to carpool to the precinct rather than make on foot a trek that included an uphill climb toward the end.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 in handcuffs after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The incident was captured on video and the officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, kept Floyd pinned to the street even as the man said he could not breathe and called out for his mother.

Chauvin and three other officers at the scene have been fired, and Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter. There have been protests, as well as riots, looting and street battles between civilians and police, for days in Minneapolis and other major U.S. cities in response to Floyd’s death.

The “Momma, I Can’t Breathe!!! Rally” in Edgewood on Sunday was peaceful, but speakers at the rally made impassioned pleas for greater investment in Edgewood; better relations between the community and police; and cooperation among the community, local government and police to end violent crime and create more opportunities for local youths.

The majority of the people in the crowd wore masks as protection against the coronavirus, and some speakers at the rally brought up COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the context of the unrest sweeping the country. People stood in the parking lot in a loose circle, fairly close to one another, despite recommendations by health officials that people remain at least 6 feet apart to help prevent the spread of the potentially deadly disease.

The Rev. Marlon Tilghman, pastor of Ames United Methodist Church in Bel Air, called for “a criminal justice revival,” and he encouraged people to get out and vote, paying particular attention to candidates for judge and state’s attorney, as well as school board.

“Exercise your vote. Your vote absolutely matters,” Tilghman said.

Harford County Councilman Andre Johnson, a Democrat who represents the Edgewood and Joppa areas in District A, implored people to lobby the county government for greater investment in Edgewood, noting the area’s economic impact in Harford County, with multiple warehouses and distribution centers.

Johnson, a father of five, also urged people to fill out 2020 U.S. census forms, vote and stay involved in seeking better police-community relations and protecting youth from violent crime. He noted that if people do not remain involved, “then this [rally] is all a spectacle, and we’re all out here for nothing.”

“It’s going to take a sustained campaign, people,” Johnson said.

‘Be the change’

The event was put on by Mothers of Murdered Sons & Daughters United Inc., or MOMS, which, according to the organization’s Facebook page, provides programs related to violence awareness, education and prevention; offers support services to crime victims; and works to create “safe neighborhoods where families and children thrive.”

The march and rally took place after two violent days in Edgewood — one person was shot and another stabbed late Friday afternoon at the Royal Farms store in the 600 block of Edgewood Road. Deputies found 22-year-old Christopher Smith of Edgewood shot after arriving in a different part of the 600 block of Edgewood Road around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Smith later died at the hospital.

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Smith’s brother talked about how the loss has affected him and his family, as well as the loss of another brother, 15-year-old Khalil Johnson, to homicide last July.

The young man, who later declined to give his name, talked about “how bad” he wants to kill the person who took his brother Christopher’s life, but asked the crowd, “What is that going to accomplish?”

He told those at the rally that “you all have to be the change that you want to see in the world.”

“We don’t have a homicide problem in black America, we have a suicide problem,” said Daphne Alston, who is a co-founder of MOMS and whose own son, Tariq, was murdered in Joppa in 2008 at age 22.

Alston expressed her frustration about what she characterized as a slow police response to the death of her son and other African American victims of homicide, compared with white homicide victims, saying, “Animals get more justice than black people.”

“Enough is enough,” she said. “Our children are dying; they’re paying a debt they don’t owe.”

Mildred Samy, another MOMS co-founder, mentioned the Blackout Day 2020 movement, which is being promoted on social media. Black people across the U.S., as well as other Americans of color, are encouraged to not spend any money for one day, July 7, to show the purchasing power of people of color.

“Do not spend one red cent, and watch what happens,” Samy said.

‘So freaking tired’

Belcamp resident Rita Hewitt talked about how she is “so freaking tired” of so many stories about black people dying at the hands of police, and said she believes her son is safer living in Australia rather than the United States. She said the death of Floyd cannot be rationalized, calling it “murder in plain sight.”

“I’ve come to the realization that we’re not seen as people,” Hewitt said of African Americans. “We’re not seen as citizens. We’re not seen as human.”

“I’m tired,” she added. “I am so freaking tired; how many more lives have to be lost to this, how many more?”

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Edgewood resident Jack Taylor, who attends Arcadia University in suburban Philadelphia, talked about how he and other white people can support the African American community.

“It’s so easy to just go, ‘That’s sad,’ and keep scrolling” when seeing a report online about a black person dying at the hands of police, he said.

Taylor encouraged white people to get out and vote, too, as well as “call out your racist family members.”

Alston said seeing white people participate in the march and rally “is good for our hearts.”

“We need white America to stand up with us and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” she said.

Alston thanked Sheriff’s Office deputies who were present for the rally for their support and for being “gracious,” even as some rally speakers expressed their anger and told their own stories of police harassing them or their children.

“I want to thank them for their hospitality,” she said.

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