WOODMERE — Village residents and other protesters marched down Chagrin Boulevard last Friday night from Village Square to a gazebo in front of Trader Joe’s to demand justice for George Floyd and others who were victims of police brutality. As the protesters marched down the main thoroughfare of the village, motorists beeped and raised their fists outside their windows to show solidarity.
Mr. Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 after a police officer held his knee on the man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Mr. Floyd was detained for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a store. Protests erupted across the country as a video of his death went viral.
“Justice is for all God’s children,” Woodmere Police Chief Sheila Mason said at the rally where more than 100 people gathered. She said that the village police department supported the protesters. The protest also took place on Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Woodmere residents of all races and ages marched with signs that read, “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” “Black Lives Matter” and other messages of unity and support. They also chanted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Some young children marched along as fast as their legs could carry them while some older people marched with canes but full of determination.
“Not everyone gets justice and peace,” Joshua Reid, 12, of Cleveland said following the event.
Joshua came with his aunt, Devida Willis, 42, of Orange Village and her 7-year-old twins, Trenton and Tyrah. Trenton said that everyone’s lives matter and the twins enjoyed their first rally. Ms. Willis said that this was a great experience in an area that one might not expect a rally.
Steven Furr, a teaching pastor at Garfield Memorial Church in Pepper Pike described himself as an “armchair quarterback.” He said he sometimes thought that certain situations might have had a better outcome if he was there.
“There’s something about that 8 minute and 46 second video that made me get off the couch,” he said, noting that this was the first vigil that he has attended.
Mr. Furr said that he used to avoid sharing his opinions because he was afraid that they could turn into anger. But his emotions eventually came to a point where “however it comes out, it’s got to come out.” He began to cry at the microphone.
Bishop Thomas Minor of the Community Faith Association brought energy to the audience with his speech. He said that when he attended Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta, Georgia, he was the “hype man” at protests.
“This is your movement,” he said to the young people in the audience.
He said that the Black Lives Matter movement should lead to policy reform, including having a nationwide registry for bad cops and police contracts that do not shield officers from accountability for wrongdoing. Young people should be encouraged to go into law enforcement, he said.
The Woodmere police department’s chaplain, Vance Garrett, said a prayer for people in law enforcement, asking God to lead them in the right direction.
Attendees sat in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as the sun set, then Kailen Giles-Watkins, 18, of Woodmere sang “Amazing Grace” and there was a candlelight vigil.
Robert Norris, 58, of Woodmere said that this was his first rally. He said that Black lives do matter and he enjoyed the variety of speakers.
“We need the police, but we don’t need police brutality,” he said.
This was not a council-sponsored event. A group of residents planned the event, including Rachel Kabb-Effron, Tamaroa Echols, Gladys Melvin and Vivian Walker, who also happens to serve on council.