Thursday marks third night of protests

Published 6:56 pm Friday, June 5, 2020

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Washington was again the scene of protest on Thursday evening, as black residents took to the streets, calling attention to racial injustice and the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

Floyd’s death by asphyxiation was caused by one officer, Derrick Chauvin, kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while others held him down — an incident recorded by bystanders and sparked protests nationwide. All four officers have since been fired and charged: Chauvin with 2nd degree murder and the others with aiding and abetting.

From approximately 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Thursday, crowds of people moved through the area between Fifth and Ninth streets off of North Market Street, a continuation of protests that unfolded on the Washington waterfront Sunday and again on Monday, about an hour after another protest had wrapped up, according to Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford.

While there were eight to 10 members of the New Black Panthers Party from out of town who attended the Thursday night protest, rumors of busloads of people arriving in Washington for the event were unfounded, Drakeford said.

“There was no busload of Black Panthers that came into the city. The busload was support personnel. I asked for assistance from Greenville Police Department, and they brought some equipment, and that’s all it was,” Drakeford said. “It was some support people for me, to be on standby just in case something happened. We made resources available to the city just in case an issue arose, and no issue arose, so I sent them back home.”

Drakeford said he believes it’s the much broader issue of inequality at the root of current nationwide anger and unrest — and Washington is no different.

“To me, it’s more than racism. The problem is economic; the problem is education; the problem is housing. All of that is part of the problem,” Drakeford said. “Where do we go from here to tackle the issues that face our community — our small-town community?”