Last Monday, George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after being held face down with a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes. Shortly after his death, all four police officers involved in the controversy were fired. By Friday, Hennepin County attorney announced charges against Derek Chauvin, the officer seen on video pressing his knee in Floyd’s neck.
Protests erupted across the country demanding justice for the murder of another black male at the hands of a police officer. From Minneapolis to L.A., to Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, thousands have expressed their opinions through peaceful demonstrations, rioting, looting, and the burning of buildings. Mayors and governors throughout the U.S. are calling for non-violent protests while involving additional aid from the National Guard. On Friday afternoon, a text went out about a protest gathering in Johnson Square, downtown Savannah. Many citizens began to question the validity of the demonstration after failing to identify the organizers of the march. Citizens were also on high alert after noticing spiteful tactics used by instigators to derail the public outcry of the movement.
Despite the fact of such, thousands of people gathered Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the family of Floyd while demanding systemic and social change for Black Americans.
After meeting with organizers and members of the faith-based community, Mayor Van Johnson and other government leaders took part in the rally. Protesters marched around Johnson Square to City Hall as they held up signs and chanted, “I can’t breathe,” “Help me,” and “Arrest the other three.”
“It was a day in which Savannahians came together to say and to absolutely cry that we will protest as a community. We will be mad as a community. We will be upset as a community, but under no circumstances are we going to allow anyone to destroy our community,” said Mayor Johnson, Monday during a follow-up press conference.
Johnson then announced the appointing of a blue-ribbon task force to investigate and provide solutions for inequities and disparities of all kinds. He was pleased to let it be known that former Mayor Dr. Otis Johnson would be part of this task force to lead the way to a brighter day for the community.
Chief Minter informed the media that only 16 arrests were made from the demonstration. “There was no evidence of people purposely planning to destroy downtown Savannah, although precautions were in place with several law enforcement agencies joining together as a team,” said Minter. Of those arrests, three of which were armed, and one of those was a convicted felon. According to Minter, an individual was arrested after being observed in a dark alley, wearing a mask, with a brick in hand.
“There wasn’t any construction going on in that area at a particular point at the time. So we were assuming they were not trying to build anything up, they were trying to tear something down.”
The identification of this person revealed they were an active member of the military. After thorough investigating, none of the 16 arrests showed any indication that they belonged to any organized group. City officials were pleased with the outcome of the demonstration and plan to continue implementing the plans in place to keep Savannah safe and proudly standing.