Peaceful protest for Floyd, justice

Published 8:30 pm Monday, June 1, 2020

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The more than 140 people who came out to a protest at a North Suffolk shopping center Monday not only want to see justice for George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died last week with a cop’s knee on his neck; they also want to see justice for all black people.

Protests have been taking place across the country for the past week, and the one in North Suffolk at the Harbour View East Shopping Center was the city’s first. Many people driving by the protest honked their horns in support.

Warren Beatty and Shannon Evans, both 25 and from Suffolk, went to school together at John Yeates Middle School and Nansemond River High School. They said they wanted to get their message out and have their protest be peaceful.

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“A lot of crazy things are happening right now in our country,” Evans said. “We just want to come together as a city and do a peaceful protest, and it turned out nice for us.”

Still, they and others are not judging the way other protests across the country have gone.

“You’ve got to realize people are in pain,” Beatty said. “These are loved ones that have been killed. And these people are hurt. They’re feeling a lot of pain right now. And how they deal with it is how they deal with it. I don’t blame anybody for grieving or exercising their pain in the way that they do. This is just how we’re exercising ours, and we hope that everybody continues to stand with George Floyd.”

Cailin Hancock, holding a sign that said “White Silence Is Violence,” said she would not judge how others have protested Floyd’s death and have been speaking out about injustices toward those who are black.

“I think people are going to be more understanding of a peaceful thing,” Hancock said, “but I think that it’s not necessarily bad what others are doing. I think people are going to be more sympathetic and are going to listen more, but I totally am behind all the other protests that have happened.”

Hancock and Abigail Ford, both 17-year-old seniors at Nansemond River High School, said they felt compelled to protest and amplify the unheard voices of black people.

“Using my white privilege, I want to help make sure that my voice is helping all these people who don’t have voices,” Hancock said, “because people don’t hear them, but maybe they’ll hear me. So I need to use my privilege to help them.”

Ford said the time is now to speak out against injustices against people who are black, while also lifting up the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s as important as ever to do it right now, even though it’s been a thing for a very long time,” Ford said. “We need our voices heard right now.”

Beatty and Evans say that while their experiences with Suffolk Police haven’t been bad ones, both say they have been profiled numerous times because of their skin color.

“The places where I felt injustices have not been in Suffolk, thankfully, and everything seems to be going well right now (here),” Beatty said.

Holding a sign that said “God Can See Your Racism,” Megan Misenti, 25, of Newport News, said she has experienced being profiled and has had police she felt were needlessly aggressive toward her when she was by herself in her car.

“We’ve seen the injustices that have been going on, time and time again, back from the years of Trayvon Martin, and it’s just now getting attention from all sides of the aisle,” Misenti said. “Regarding my sign, a lot of people are quick to say that they’re God-fearing, and honestly, if you knew Christ truly, in your heart, you wouldn’t be hating the way that you do.”

Beatty said they wanted to turn out to show that the city also supports Floyd and supports justice for all black people.

“We want to show that Suffolk supports everything that’s going on right now,” Beatty said. “We just feel like Suffolk is a city that gets overlooked, and we want to show them that everybody that’s supporting George Floyd, that Suffolk is also standing with him right now.”

Said Misenti: “All we want really is for cops to be more aware of their own actions, to hold accountability for their co-workers. You see somebody with their knee on a man’s neck, and he’s already contained, tell your co-worker to get his knee off that man’s neck. That’s not needed ever.”

Hearing the horns and chanting, and seeing the signs in solidarity and support, they said they came out to seek justice, and they feel like they are starting to be heard.

Kara Dixon, 25, of Suffolk, said she came to North Suffolk, and to a previous protest in Hampton, because it’s past time for change and is tired of seeing too many black people die for no reason.

“I just feel like we’ve been quiet for too long, and I feel like a lot of people just don’t understand the seriousness of it and that we need to just draw awareness to (the fact) that black lives matter,” Dixon said. “I feel like what’s going on around the world is really good because it’s actually letting people listen. People are actually getting it now.”

For her sister, Dannica Dixon, 31, of Chesapeake, said she is worried that what happened to Floyd, and to other black men and women, could happen to someone she knows.

“I don’t want it to be somebody that I know,” Dannica Dixon said. “I don’t want it to turn out to be my father, or my brother, my uncle, my child, because it’s not just men, it’s women, it’s children that are innocently losing their lives, and I think enough is enough. And I think that, hopefully, this is going to make people more aware to realize that, as a whole, America is tired. It’s not a race issue. It’s a racism issue.”

Personnel from Suffolk Police were stationed around the shopping center. They watched the protest from a distance and chatted with folks who approached them but did not get involved.

At the end, a little more than two hours after they started, the group of protesters gathered in a circle, creating an emotional sendoff as they shouted out the names of a number of people killed by police — including George Floyd.

“This right here,” Beatty said, “speaks for itself.”