Several local protests are scheduled this weekend to honor the memory of George Floyd, who died last week in Minneapolis while being restrained by police.
Columbia’s NAACP chapter is planning a march in protest of police brutality and systemic racism at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Boone County Courthouse.
The event was announced by local lawyer Robin Winn, who is also on the executive committee for the chapter, as protesters closed out Tuesday evening’s demonstrations in downtown Columbia.
On Tuesday morning, Winn met with local residents from Monday night’s protests at her law firm’s office to organize future events. They created a Facebook page, Peoples Defense, to help centralize their mobilization efforts and to “Protest police brutality, racial injustice and inequality in the criminal justice system against blacks in America.”
Winn and Roy Lovelady, who are co-leading the group, want to use this moment of national attention, brought by the death of Floyd while in police custody, to amplify the voices of those who are marching for justice in their community.
Mary Ratliff, president of the Columbia chapter of the NAACP, has been speaking with the police department in an effort to quell violence and advocate for nonviolent protest in the wake of escalating national protests against police brutality.
Winn said the ultimate goal is to change “the hearts and mindsets” of the local police department and court systems through community activism and voting power. Also, to advise leaders in the community while making sure their constitutional rights are protected.
“We’re going to be doing more things,” she said. “I’m sure they’re going to continue to demonstrate because there are some things that need to change.”
“As a criminal defense attorney, I get to see a case from the initial stop to the sentencing, and I know that there are some issues,” she said. “I’m gonna see what we can do to work on those collectively. This has made me figure out ‘OK, there’s still more work to do.’”
An event called “Peaceful Protest at the Keyhole Columbia MO” was created by two local residents. They are going to “stand against racism” again later in the evening, after the NAACP protest, from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Lovelady emphasized the push for people to register to vote and said they “don’t win the war through protests.”
“You’re protesting so you could be seen, and you’re protesting so that you could be out here,” Lovelady said. “And we understand that is great, but we’re winning through fighting this battle of registering to vote. We’re winning through getting the right people’s attention.”
“We got the police escorting us as we’re walking around,” he said. “We got the right people’s attention.”
A “Black Lives Matter Protest” will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday to “show that we will not tolerate this abuse anymore,” according to the event’s Facebook page. The event was created by two Columbia residents.
A group led by students posted an event on Facebook called “8 minutes 46 seconds. A march in solidarity for George Floyd.” The crowd will meet at Francis Quadrangle on the MU campus and march north to the courthouse, where they will lay on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
That time signifies how long a recording showed a Minneapolis police officer holding his knee against Floyd’s neck while Floyd said he could not breathe.
Wednesday afternoon, a group of Missouri student-athletes — accompanied by several coaches, UM System President Mun Choi, athletic director Jim Sterk and members of the Columbia and MU police departments — marched from MU to the Boone County Courthouse.
Also Wednesday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr that urged him to “use his authority to aid local police departments in rooting out misconduct and implementing reforms.”
Blunt called for more “robust use of pattern-or-practice reviews and consent decrees,” both of which have been successfully used by the Department of Justice in the past to address misconduct in local departments, including the Ferguson Police Department, according to a news release from his office.