Chesterfield Observer: Protestors march peacefully to Chesterfield courthouse

CHESTERFIELD OBSERVER, RICH GRISET

Nine days after George Floyd, an African American man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and following more than a week of protests across the country, a rally was held to protest his death and racial injustice in Chesterfield County Wednesday night.

Starting outside the Chesterfield County Police Department at 6 p.m., more than a thousand protestors took up two lanes of Iron Bridge Road in a peaceful march to the front steps of the county courthouse more than a mile away.

Floyd died in police custody, handcuffed and lying facedown in the street while Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, including almost three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. Chauvin has since been arrested and charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Since Floyd’s death on May 25, protests have rocked many American cities, including Richmond, which has seen storefronts smashed, Confederate statues graffitied, and cars, buildings and one GRTC bus lit on fire. In contrast, Chesterfield’s protest Wednesday night was a more staid affair. Still, at least a thousand showed up for one of the largest political protests in the county in recent memory.

“We will march in unity, we will march together, and together we will make a difference in Chesterfield County,” said Shedrick McCall, an associate professor of psychology at Virginia State University and former School Board candidate, before the march left the front of the police station.

Heading northwest along Iron Bridge Road, Midlothian resident Jennifer Brown said the demonstration was her first as a part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Brown, who is African American, said she was spurred to action by the thought of what could happen to her 16-year-old son, Jayden, in a similar situation as Floyd. She said her son experienced an incident of racial profiling in the county last year when police stopped him as he walked from Uptown Alley to the Regal Commonwealth movie theater with his friends in the middle of the afternoon.

Protestors marched down Iron Bridge Road Wednesday evening. Photo by Ash Daniel

“We need to be heard,” said the 42-year-old, holding a sign that read “My Son Matters/I Will Not Be Silenced.” “We need justice. This has to stop happening. When George Floyd said ‘momma’ [in a recorded video of his death], that really, really hurt me, because that could be my son one day if something doesn’t change.”

The Chesterfield protest drew many elected officials, including Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, state Del. Carrie Coyner, Sheriff Karl Leonard, and Commissioner of the Revenue Jenefer Hughes. Superintendent Merv Daugherty and School Board members Kathryn Haines and Dot Heffron were also in attendance.

Former county planning commission chair Michael Jackson said he organized the event with McCall and Tavorise Marks, a member of the Chesterfield NAACP leadership, after his daughter asked what they were going to do in response to Floyd’s death.

“I just didn’t feel like I could send her to a march in the evening,” Jackson said. “I wanted to do something, and this is what has come out of it.”

For Jackson, the protests taking place across the country have some personal symmetry.

“I was a junior in high school when the Rodney King riots started,” Jackson said. “My son is a junior in high school this year. These episodic cycles due to racial injustice in our country need to be addressed, and that is the hard work that has to take place after the marches end.”

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