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Hoping protests bring about effective change

Anyone who was not disturbed by the video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for approximately 10 minutes as he screamed with his last breath, “I can’t breathe,” is a soulless human being.

It is horrible anytime a human being mistreats another human being in such a manner, regardless of race or creed but what made the Floyd incident even worse was that it was a white police officer killing a black man and it was captured on video.

Police officers are sworn to protect and serve, and it is impossible to fathom how slowly and painfully killing an unarmed man who was subdued and begging for his life falls into that role.

Floyd clearly was not a danger to anyone once he had been restrained, was on the ground and begging for his life, especially while he was surrounded by three or four other police officers.

The national outrage sparked by video of the incident that went viral on the internet is understandable, but that the protests would continue for two weeks and reach other continents is a testament the injustice done not only to George Floyd but to other black victims as well.

Many people who took to the streets in peaceful protests said they are also protesting other injustices toward black people that have occurred throughout the nation’s history.

Something about these latest protests seems different than past protests, not only in how long the outrage and protests in the streets have lasted but also in people’s attitudes and reactions to the incidents.

People of all races including mayors, city council members, police chiefs and officers in many cities have united with protesters to express outrage, as well.

We have been here before, some longtime protesters say, pointing to the nation’s history of such protests, including after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and after the mistreatment of Rodney King at the hands of police in 1992, to name a couple. Those incidents did not affect lasting change. Hopefully this time will be different.

On the local front, Robert Bates and Brandon Curtis organized two peaceful marches through Natchez last week to protest not only the Floyd killing but also local black-on-black crimes that have plagued Natchez and Adams County in recent years. Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong were supportive of the local marches.

Unfortunately, not long after Saturday’s peaceful march ended, another shooting incident took place at the Holiday Apartments in Natchez and sent two young men to the hospital.

Just days earlier, before Wednesday’s local march departed along Martin Luther King Jr. Street in Natchez, Armstrong told the group of marchers that he hoped the protests of the Floyd incident would bring awareness to and help bring an end to local violence.

“Most of you know about the very violent situation that happened where 12 people were killed (in Natchez in 2018),” Armstrong told the group. “Every one of them looked like you and I. That should be unacceptable with anyone … we should not stop at the end of the walk. We should keep this momentum going and address other ills of our community. Right now it is the deaths of the African American at the hands of other African Americans. I think this will be a good springboard to lead from as we conclude this walk to get into those neighborhoods to see if we can get into the heads of those persons who live within those neighborhoods and see if we can get them to rally with us in supporting our own community.”

Amen! Well said, Chief Armstrong.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.