On Saturday and Sunday, Charleston events are in the works to remember George Floyd, the Minneapolis, Minn. man killed after being restrained by police on May 25.
Floyd’s death and slow action by Minneapolis police to arrest and charge anyone related to the altercation touched off protests across the country from New York to Atlanta. On Friday, after riots in Minneapolis saw a police station torched and businesses looted, Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck and ignored his pleas for help was arrested and charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder.
On Saturday in Marion Square, supporters will gather at 2 p.m. for a “Justice for George Floyd” rally. The event is described in a Facebook listing as being hosted by the local Peoples Solidarity Society activist group along with Black Lives Matter as a gathering “in solidarity with the Minneapolis uprising and against systemic oppression.” (The local arm of the national BLM group formally disbanded after the 2018 death of its leader Muhiyidin d’Baha, but the group may have reorganized in recent days, according to social media.)
Attendees are encouraged to bring protest material that addresses, “opposing systematic racism and the unjust murder of so many for simply existing while black.”
Also on Saturday in Columbia, a march is being organized to start at City Hall at 11 a.m., with a rally to follow at the Statehouse at 1 p.m.
On Sunday, Charleston Uplift is organizing a silent protest in White Point Gardens. Supporters will gather at 9:30 a.m. In addition to showing solidarity for Floyd, organizer Aaron Comstock said the event was to drive home that, “We know theres racism here in Charleston and we are also against that kind of police brutality and racism in our community.” Comstock hopes the event will be a peaceful show of force.
Floyd’s death is just the most recent example of the unjust killing of black Americans despite a drumbeat of incidents that continue to show disparities in how communities of color are treated everyday.
In Charleston, local reaction to high-profile incidents of racial injustice over the years has remained peaceful and restrained. Walter Scott’s death at the hands of a North Charleston police officer and the targeted killing of nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME in 2015 touched off limited political action, but organizing in the aftermath of the events was peaceful, even in the shadow of contentious protests elsewhere.
But five years after Emanuel and Walter Scott, with constant reminders of racism and inequality in America — and amidst an economy adrift from the coronavirus — rhetoric around the Minneapolis protests has been less about unification and more of a shout for action. One Minneapolis columnist described the protests as a “language of grief.”