FAIRHOPE – A crowd of more than 300 stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds Sunday afternoon before setting out on a march through downtown Fairhope to protest the death of George Floyd and to call for unity and understanding.
The marchers walked from City Hall to the South Beach Park where they gathered for a prayer meeting.
“We all know that we’re here, because we’ve all been moved by the situation that has happened in our country in different spots of the country, different places and everybody has essentially been hurt and feels threatened and feel like we’re tired of seeing the same thing happen over and over,” Sean Grainger, executive director of Hope Community, said. “So this is done in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the millions and millions of other people who have been disenfranchised and harmed and profiled and hurt. We stand with them and we stand for the families of the officers who’ve been impacted negatively by this as well. We need to come together as a community and here’s a first step to do so.”
Floyd died May 26 in Minneapolis, Minn. after a police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 second. Taylor died after being shot on March 13 when Louisville, Ky. police entered her apartment during an investigation of her boyfriend. Arbery was pursued by two men and shot while jogging in Georgia in February.
Organizer Murray “Bubba” Lawrence said that like other events around the country, the Fairhope procession was a call to remember Floyd and speak out against injustice. “This is for George, George,” he said.
Participants were escorted along the route of the Sunday march by Fairhope police cars. Walkers called out greetings to police officers, who waved in response.
Marchers called out Floyd’s name and called out “No justice, no peace,” as well as “I can’t breathe.”
Grainger said the event was a call for understanding, not anger.
“We would encourage everybody here today and throughout our city, our state, our country to put down the labels, finally, put down the labels,” Grainger said. “Put down destructive anger. Put down the assumptions and the judgements, all of the things that we’ve done for so many decades since the creation of our union and let’s pick up love, right? Let’s pick up empathy, right? And let’s do it with a purpose in everyday life.”
Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson, who took part in the march, said the city was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity 125 years ago.
“It’s something to be celebrated. Regardless of race and religious beliefs, we can always find more we have in common than our differences. It’s rooted in respect empathy and communication.”
Ashanti Ash, 2020 Fairhope High School senior class president, said that when she was growing up as a black child in Fairhope, she never felt as though she belonged even though her family has lived in the community for four generations.
She said many of her friends became discouraged and gave up trying to succeed.
“When do we start to give up on our black youth – when we don’t want to deal with their trauma anymore? When is it decided to just push the kid through because we expect less of them? We can’t afford to keep letting kids slip through the cracks because we don’t want to understand them,” Ash said. “We have to start investing in Fairhope’s black community because I’m tired of seeing people I grew up with become a product of a system that has failed them.”
Cynthia “Maggie” Mosteller said the time had come for black and white residents to speak out about injustice.
“Together we are finding a common voice, a voice that we and others around the world are raising and will continue to raise in peaceful protests against racial prejudice, injustice and inequality,” she said. “There is much work left to be done, so we can no longer be silent.”