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Hundreds gather at Brown's Island: 'We are going to protest peacefully'

Posted at 8:22 PM, May 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-31 20:26:31-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of people gathered at Brown's Island in Richmond Sunday carrying signs and chanting in a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd following two nights of destructive riots in the River City.

"We do not want violence today," said Sam Reed, who was one of the hundreds of protesters who took part in the nearby Justice for Black Lives Car Rally. "If you act a fool, you will be booted out."

Demonstrations were sparked across the country and in Richmond in protest of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.

Signs filled the sky at the Brown's Island event, which featured speakers, artists and a march, to bring attention to the deaths of black men and women like Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor. They died at the hands of police or former police officers.

Arbery was shot and killed in Georgia following a struggle with a former police officer and his son in February, and video showed the two men block his path as he ran down a suburban road.

Floyd died in police custody in Minnesota on Monday, and video showed an officer kneeling on his neck as he struggled to breathe.

Taylor was shot in her Louisville home in March when police entered her home on a "knock-free" warrant. Thinking the police were intruders, she shot at the officers, who then responded with fatal fire of their own.

One protester at Sunday's event called Richmond a "great city full of great people."

"It's for a great cause," she said. "This is bigger than all of us."

Organizers said they were cognizant of the devastation the two night of riots caused to Richmond businesses.

"The people who live here are going to protest peacefully," Stephanie Hewlett said. "The destruction that's happening that I've seen is not of our people."

Reed said the event left her full of emotion, hope, pride and joy because "we need that in order to move forward."

"Everyone is necessary in order to win the battle," Reed added.

Community leaders are planning a call to action event Monday at 1 p.m. at the Richmond Reconciliation Statue.