CONYERS — Several hundred protesters held a peaceful march and rally in Conyers on June 2, seeking justice for George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Minneapolis, Minn., police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes on May 25.
The death of Floyd and other blacks who have died in police custody triggered both peaceful demonstrations and violence and looting that have continued for more than a week around the country, including Atlanta, Athens, Gainesville, Lawrenceville and Savannah. Peaceful protests have taken place in Griffin, McDonough and Covington.
But the protest Tuesday evening in Conyers was well-organized and peaceful. According to Conyers Police Lt. Kim Lucas, the marchers gathered at Wheeler Park on Parker Road about 7 p.m., marched to the Rockdale County Courthouse and held a rally there, and marched back to Wheeler Park. Conyers Police escorted the marchers and blocked off streets along the route.
At the courthouse rally, those gathered chanted and prayed together. Many of the demonstrators dressed in black to show solidarity, and all were asked to kneel on one knee for nine minutes in memory of Floyd.
Among those at the demonstration were Rockdale County Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt, District 1 Commissioner Sherri Washington, Sheriff Eric Levett, Conyers Mayor Vince Evans, and Conyers City Council member Valyncia Smith.
Nesbitt, who said he was there not as an elected official, but as a concerned private citizen, said this has been a really tough and sad time.
“I pray for peace and justice for all, but particularly disenfranchised communities,” Nesbitt said. “Black and brown people feel justice is not fair for them and want to be heard. I support peaceful and public demonstration that helps highlight those who feel unheard.”
Floyd was arrested after being accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a market. Police allege Floyd resisted arrest, but police body camera footage shows Floyd saying he had trouble breathing while he was standing outside the patrol vehicle, then falling to the ground.
David Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on the back and side of Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe and eventually passed out. He was transported to a nearby hospital, but died after going into cardiac arrest. His death has been ruled a homicide.
All four officers involved in the incident have been fired and charged in connection with Floyd’s death.
Sheriff Levett released a statement on May 29 about the issue, stating that such behavior shown by Chauvin and the other Minneapolis officers is not accepted or tolerated in Rockdale County. Levett added that residents should realize that justice is a process that cannot be done quickly.
“No, it isn’t easy to wait on it when we are impacted by these particularly challenging situations, but if we allow it to work as it should, it is worth waiting for,” Levett said. “Let’s allow the focus to remain where it should be – on the true victims of these incidents and on continuing to ensure that law enforcement is held accountable in our duties.”