Survivors Speak honors the death of George Floyd, Daunte Wright
Almost a year after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, more than 100 protesters came together on Saturday afternoon to honor Floyd’s death at Glencoe Crossing in Ann Arbor. Organized by Value Black Lives and Survivors Speak, the event attracted families and locals to either listen or share stories about the impact the police brutality had on their lives and the injustice that continues to affect people of color.
Floyd was killed in May 2020 when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds while other officers were present. The murder sparked national outrage and sparked a race bill that summer as cities across the country protested police brutality, calling for racial justice and systemic change.
After Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis police released Chauvin and he was charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Chauvin’s sentencing began on March 8 and is currently ongoing. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
Trische ‘Duckworth, founder and managing director of Survivors Speak, was one of the organizers of the protest. Duckworth has been an active voice in the community since last May, leading a variety of other marches and rallies that incite police brutality and racial injustice. Duckworth opened the protest by also paying tribute to Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was fatally shot by Minnesota police after being stopped for expired registration and an air freshener dangling from his mirror.
“How many know we are also in a racial pandemic?” Duckworth told the crowd. “Not being here, not raising awareness, just wouldn’t be right because our black blood continues to be splashed on the street by the police.”
Other local groups also joined community members on the march, including Boober Tours, Street Medicine, Southeast Michigan Street Medics, the Washtenaw County’s Bike Alliance, and the Detroit Black Syndicate Motorcycle Chapter.
“Understand this: we want redress,” said Duckworth. “For anyone who thinks, ‘Well, I had nothing to do with this,’ it’s fine. You had nothing to do with it, that’s fine, but I wasn’t a slave and I still fight because we’re in bondage. “
Protesters in attendance were instructed to practice social distancing and follow COVID-19 precautions during the event. Following introductions from Duckworth, the crowd marched to the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office, where several guest speakers shared their personal stories of police brutality with the crowd.
On the way chants like “No justice, no peace!” and “Come back, come back, we want freedom, freedom!” rang the doorbell through the streets.
Protester Spidey Dee was one of the many members of the Black Syndicate Motorcycle Chapter who led the protesters on their motorcycles. When asked why he thought the rally was important, Dee told The Michigan Daily that he was frustrated with the repeated police violence against blacks.
“We stand up for justice for blacks and the things of the world, apart from this pandemic,” said Dee. “I’m here to stop the police from doing what they do to our youth and youth.”
Ypsilanti residents Sha’Teina Grady El and her husband Daniyal Grady El also spoke to the crowd to share their experiences of police brutality. In May last year, a video was released showing a deputy of a Washtenaw County sheriff beating Sha’Teina Grady El three times and another policeman using a stun gun on Daniyal Grady El after he refused to evacuate an area where there was probably an active shooter. In September 2020, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel deemed the use of force appropriate as Nessel said Sha’Teina Grady El bit the officer.
Sha’Teina Grady El said her family is still recovering from the incident. Like grief, Sha’Teina Grady El said, the attack has many stages of healing, often starting with anger and denial.
“An injustice for one is an injustice for all,” said Sha’Teina Grady El. “I just want us to always remind ourselves that you may not be you today, but you may be tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. Maybe you weren’t your local loved one last night, but they may be in the future. “
Daniyal Grady El encouraged those present to take action and get involved in their community and politics. Daniyal Grady El said it was important that both the officers involved in the attack and the entire department take responsibility for their actions.
“We are all free people, but according to the system we are in, we are slaves,” said Daniyal Grady El. “We are not free at all. So it is time to come together and knock on these doors and hold them accountable for the oaths they have taken to support and defend our rights. “
The protesters marched back down Washtenaw Avenue, which the city had closed for the event. Protesters stopped at a cordoned off intersection and kneeled for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds in memory of Floyd.
Attorney Robert Burton-Harris was one of the protesters. During his speech, Burton-Harris said the police system is flawed and noted that there are systemic guidelines that allow police officers to get away with injustices or tell the truth.
“There is no accountability,” said Burton-Harris. “(Policemen) know they won’t have any problems. And if they did anything else, they wouldn’t be cops. They are fired for telling the truth. “
Lisa Jackson, Michigan Law Enforcement Standards Commissioner and Chair of the Ann Arbor Independent Police Oversight Commission, spoke to the crowd about how police officers need to be trained not to shoot instinctively.
“Cops now have the right to shoot you if they reasonably believe you may have a gun,” said Johnson. “And what we need is that they can’t shoot and are trained not to shoot unless they know you have a gun and are going to use it … It can’t just be a blue thing of life. Sure, you absolutely have the right to go home safely at the end of the day, but so do we. “
At the end of the rally, community members were invited to share their stories of police brutality. Vicki Echegoyen, who lives in Ypsilanti, said she, her husband and in-laws have suffered police profiles, fear of deportation and other injustices because of their Mexican heritage. Echegoyen stressed the need to report and document cases of police violence in order to truly hold officers accountable.
“You have a power that you don’t know you have and it is your mouth,” said Echegoyen. “The second power you have… is your cell phone. Put it on and say, “I can see you. Have looked. I post. ‘”
Second year businesswoman Sara Gray said this was her first protest and she had supported the ongoing struggle for racial justice. Gray said activism and awareness can start with social media and it is important to continue that discussion.
“I think social media is a great way to … and just (take into account) and make a conscious effort to keep the conversation going,” Gray said.
Duckworth reiterated the importance of standing up against injustice. She said everyone has a voice in this issue and should fight against racism.
“Don’t go into condemnation, go into conviction,” said Duckworth. “Conviction keeps you moving and fights for what you know is right. Judgment stagnates you, shame stagnates you. You don’t need to feel guilty about what your ancestors did and what some of your people are still doing now. You have to go to the front … close your arms with us and be with us. “