With darkness falling all across the land, it is comforting to find a ray of light right here in Frederick.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25 has sparked a wave of protests in cities across the country, many of which have been peaceful but some of which have not.
In several of the cities, police have confronted the demonstrators and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them and in some cases at the members of the news media reporting on the marches. But in many other communities, police officers have stood with the protestors. Some have knelt with them in sympathy, and even comforted some weeping protestors.
We are pleased to see that the city of Frederick wants to follow the second path.
As city officials plan for a local protest against the killing scheduled for Friday, the mayor and police chief spoke up forcefully to condemn the death of Floyd. Acting Frederick Police Department chief Pat Grossman was especially strong in his comments, saying the Minneapolis officers had shown “callous disregard for human life.”
He is correct, of course, but it was heartening to hear him express the opinion. Video of the confrontation shows an officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as he lay on the ground, despite him saying he could not breathe. Other officers also appeared to join in holding Floyd down. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“The actions of those officers are not consistent with instituted training standards and procedures,” Grossman said. “It is extremely disheartening for all of us who have worked to overcome the generational mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement, only to have it stripped away through the careless actions of [a] few.”
Mayor Michael O’Connor also condemned the death of Floyd as well as other high-profile deaths of minorities in recent weeks.
“We are dismayed and angered by the wanton disregard for human life seen in the recent deaths of so many people of color, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, three of too many names we could list,” O’Connor said.
Arbery was gunned down during an incident with a retired police officer and his son in Brunswick, Ga., while jogging. Taylor was killed by police in Louisville, Ky., who were serving a warrant at her home.
A march to protest Floyd’s death is scheduled for Friday in Frederick, beginning at 5 p.m. Friday on North Market Street. A Facebook page for the event stressed that it is meant to be a peaceful protest.
O’Connor said the city was ready to support the peaceful efforts of community members in organizing Friday’s demonstration, and acknowledged the cost of centuries of racism and discrimination.
“I stand with you in your peaceful demonstration of frustration, exhaustion, and hope that this will be the final decree of ‘enough is enough,’” O’Connor said.
Perhaps the mayor and the chief could go so far as to join the demonstrators and march with them. When local leaders recognize the legitimacy of the community’s complaints, they can help direct the protest in productive ways.
The police must be on hand to protect property and lives, but Mayor O’Connor and Chief Grossman by their remarks have already gone a long way to keep the peace. We applaud them.