ENID, Okla. — Together they stood and united they knelt.
Around 100 people demonstrated Sunday, in front of the city administration building starting at noon, as a second consecutive day of peaceful protests in Enid over the killing of George Floyd proceeded without much pushback.
Drivers down West Garriott honked their support, sometimes drowning out the repeated calls and responses of organizers and speakers shouting into a bullhorn such as “Let me breathe/Let me live,” “Say his name/George Floyd” and “No justice/No peace.”
Chants and speeches stopped as the crowd then knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds in a moment of silence. Floyd, a black man, died on Memorial Day after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for the same amount of time while Floyd was handcuffed and face-down.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was later fired and charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while three others were charged with aiding and abetting the second-degree murder.
A majority of the Minneapolis city council voted this week in support of disbanding the police force, while Minnesota has also launched a civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death.
Dozens of protesters wore black shirts — some with messages written on them like “BLM” or “God didn’t put us on Earth to get murdered” — on a sunny day in which temperatures reached 96 degrees in Enid. Church leaders and private citizens passed out bottles of water, and boxes of pizza and masks sat on tables in the shade by the city offices.
Using the bullhorn, organizer Preslee Postlewaite and other speakers like Mya Roberts called for accountability for the law. Postlewaite read names of men and women killed by police, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and Anthony Huff, “killed in our own backyard.”
“Y’all see what happened to Anthony Huff, am I right?” Roberts, who is black, told protesters. “But it takes George Floyd’s death for us to have to come together like this right now when we should’ve been doing it a long damn time ago.”
In 2016, Huff died in custody in the Garfield County jail after being left strapped to a chair for 55 hours without food, water or medical attention. Huff, 58, had been arrested for public intoxication.
The county later settled a lawsuit by Huff’s family for $12.5 million, and jail administrator Jennifer Shay Niles was sentenced to the same number of hours in Alfalfa County jail. One of her co-defendants also served 55 hours in jail and the other received a four-year suspended sentence.
While Saturday’s protest, which saw demonstrators marching to the Garfield County Court House square and back to Government Springs Park, saw several city officials appear, none seemed to be present Sunday. Fourteen officials and leaders sat on a town hall panel Thursday night at Stride Bank Center to hear from the community. NAACP members reportedly attended, however.
As Postlewaite initially addressed the protesters, one shout of “All Lives Matter” was largely ignored by the crowd. Police responded to a call for a counter-protest between 2 and 2:30.
A white woman, she urged those like her to remember to “pass the mic” to those whose voices often go unheard, and to speak out against injustice.
“I feel like for white people, we really need to realize the stance of silence is a stance of consent,” she said. “If you feel like you can’t do anything, at least call someone out for their hatred.”
The only major pushback was found online, such as on the News & Eagle’s Facebook post about Sunday’s protest, with over 270 comments and counting. Several commenters Sunday seemed to push back against the “Black Lives Matter” movement and organization, some falsely calling the group a terrorist organization. Others questioned the need for police reform or instead argued for the counter-protests of “All/Blue Lives Matter,” which both arose solely in reaction to the BLM movement.
Enid resident Squire Logan IV came to Sunday’s protests to set a good example of change for the younger generation, an age group he said “knows nothing but violence” and includes his son, Squire V, who also came to Sunday’s rally.
“I see a lot more conversation. Rather than not talking, they’re listening. You can’t change everybody’s mind, it’s just about opening them up to be able to change,” Logan said.
He said he hopes justice can be possible when people of different races and backgrounds come together to enact lasting political change.
“It’s like building a wall, you’ve got to do it brick by brick,” Logan said, as chants and car honks continued in the background. “You can’t take all the hate out of the world ... but we can vote for who’s in office and change that.”