Protesters Hope to Send Clear Message by Marching, at the Polls
By C. Ron Allen
It’s been nine days since the world watched a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd in daylight, killing him in the middle of a downtown street as three fellow officers stood by and did nothing.
The killing, which trails a depressing pattern in American history, triggered astonishing and inspiring nationwide protests over police racism and racial inequality as well as scattered incidences of violence and unrest in cities across the nation.
In a symbolic show of support, a group of dismayed local residents are expected to exercise their First Amendment rights today and peacefully express their anger and sorrow.
They will walk from Pompey Park, 1101 NW 2nd St., at 5 pm to West Atlantic Avenue. Arm in arm with police brass, they will continue east to City Hall, where they will voice their concerns about the social injustices that have reached a tipping point.
A selected list of respected local residents and members of the clergy have been designated to share their views on the current unrest. Members of the public will also be allowed to speak for two minutes.
These residents, while decrying the heinous acts, know that they must channel their frustrations into actionable policies and reform.
They each have different roles to play in the fight against systemic racism, but as was the consensus among the organizers recently, “it is important that we remain unified in our resolve.”
Like me, they agree that the time to meet anger with action is now.
It is understandable that some local residents are uneasy about the organization of a protest taking place in our city.
Most of these protests are peaceful, but not all have been. In cities where they are not, police officers are often the target of that violence.
Let us look at this protest, not as a sign of our city’s weakness but as a monument to its strength as a community that advocates on behalf of its residents.
Delray Beach residents should be assured that what played out in Minneapolis between former Officer Derek Chauvin and Floyd is not likely to happen in their city.
That’s because police Chief Javaro Sims has created a culture where his officers respect the residents, regardless of their zip code.
Sims said he has provided diversity and de-escalation training for his officers and has been listening to members of the African American community.
Immediately after seeing the video, Sims was the first law enforcement official in Palm Beach County to publicly bemoan the act.
“There is no training at this police department that teaches officers to take this kind of action. I believe the officers that stood around are just as guilty. It showed a complete disregard for human life,” he said. “At this police department, we will continue to build community trust and be willing to question and denounce actions that are wrong.”
Since he was sworn in as chief last February, Sims had logged countless hours attending community forums and listening to residents’ concerns.
That is an understatement as the Delray Beach Police Department, for years, has enjoyed a cordial relationship with members of the African American community.
That was largely because of the community policing initiative that fostered relationships between the police and the community through sports and events.
Like the thousands of protesters who exercised their right to peaceably assemble as well as the right of free speech, today’s speakers want to vent, a rage born of despair.
And their despair is from knowing that their government has failed them in times of need. Many progressive mayors and governors have been focusing on the urgent need for rapid, fundamental law enforcement reform. Still, most have been mum as rioters and looters rip apart their downtowns, further crippling many small businesses already wounded by the pandemic shutdown.
Local leadership could never be more crucial than these days when residents are expecting one of local government’s most vital responsibilities: fighting crime and keeping people safe.
I am comforted in knowing that the organizers realize that the issues won’t be solved by policing alone.
They understand that real change is local and they hope to send the clear message by registering for the Census and at the ballot box.
C. Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@DelrayBeachTribune.com or 561-665-0151.