In Sussex, peaceful protests demand change
A front-page photograph in the June 5 Cape Gazette showed a young black police officer in Georgetown standing face-to-face with a crowd protesting police brutality and racism. The protest came in response to the death of George Floyd, who died while a Minneapolis police officer held a knee to Floyd’s neck.
It’s a photo that captures challenges we all face, across the nation and in the Cape Region. The police officer entrusted with keeping order is black. The protest, organized by Tahara Johnson of Ellendale, who is also black, was joined by others calling for change, including many, as the photo shows, who are white.
It’s a photo that appears to say we’re all in this together. The protest had been planned for June 1 in Rehoboth Beach, but at the last minute, Johnson moved it to June 3 in Georgetown. About 70 protesters had already arrived in Rehoboth; on their own, they rallied for several hours before leaving peacefully amid a massive police presence.
The crowd grew to about 200 for the June 3 rally, which included a moment of silence when Johnson, alongside Georgetown Police Chief R.L. Hughes, knelt to the ground, recalling Floyd’s death. That rally, too, ended peacefully.
The largest event took place June 5, on Route 1, when over 500 protesters called for justice and an end to police violence.
Organizations that planned this event withdrew their sponsorship, apparently amid Facebook rumors that outsiders might disrupt it. Once again, people gathered anyway, and once again, state police were standing by, quietly, in large numbers.
Once again, this event, like the first two, ended peacefully.
In Sussex County, these protests remained peaceful, and police showed restraint – in Georgetown, even support for the protesters’ demands.
Peaceful protest demands change. But as repeated events in Sussex and nationwide show, it takes more than protests to produce change. At the very least, it takes a reckoning.
Delaware has mobilized to fight a deadly virus. We must dedicate that same level of energy toward ending police violence, rebuilding trust and ensuring all of our communities will flourish.