RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Groups gathered in major cities around the country protesting police brutality over the weekend, and Richmond was no exception.
The message was loud and clear on Sunday morning as protesters marched a mile and a half demanding justice following the killing of a black man in Minnesota by a white police officer. The death has ignited protests across the United States.
“It’s time for a change. It’s time for the division to stop. You say we’re a great nation, but we look like fools to the rest of the world,” said protester William Presley from Petersburg.
“I have a lot of anger that we’ve gotten to this point in America, and I’d like to be here to peacefully express that anger,” said another protester, Doreen Rice.
It was a racially diverse crowd taking part in this protest-vigil honoring people who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
“The integrity should never be in question. If you are coming in our communities and we have to question if you’re here to help or harm that needs to be addressed,” said Psy Williams.
The group gathered on Brown’s Island with the goal of protesting peacefully following two nights of unrest in the city that led to the mayor issuing a curfew. They plan to march towards the state Capitol.
They started at Brown’s Island, walked up to the Virginia State Capitol, and then over tot he 17th Street Farmer’s Market in Shockoe Bottom, chanting George’s Floyd’s name, and other phrases such as “Black Lives Matter”.
But the one thing organizers wanted to do from the get-go was set the ground rules: this protest would stay peaceful.
Moments before the rally was set to start, a few ralliers seemed to try stirring up aggression among others in the crowd. Organizers asked the few ralliers to “go home” if the protest was “too peaceful” for them.
“I understand the outrage but we don’t want that today," said organizer Quiara Holmes, adding, "we were going to be near local businesses, we want things to turn out peaceful, we don’t want to give the police any reason to escalate the situation.”
Dinwiddie native Rita Willis took part in the protest and even spoke at the march’s last stop.
“This is what Dr. King would be so proud of. And he said himself, he understood that when people are not heard that’s what you get with the fires and all of those kinds of things: break-ins, because they’re not being heard,” she said.
Willis knows a thing or two about peaceful protests: she says she was in the March on Washington back in 1963 with her family and heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s legendary speech in person.
She hopes that the takeaway message for this generation of fighters is to change the system through the most democratic way possible: their votes.
“Dr. King held us up, and so it’s our turn to hold them up and still be a part of it, in the background with them. Let them know you’re doing it the right way,” she added.
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.