The crowd applauded and cheered while drivers honked and showed support during a demonstration held Sunday in downtown Danville for a Minneapolis man who died in police custody last week.
Speakers shouted messages of love and unity to the group, some of whom held signs that said "Black Lives Matter," "Stop the Hate! Participate with Love!" and "The Murder of George Floyd Will Not Be in Vain."
"The moral of the story is, I see God all around!" one speaker told the crowd of about 200 to shouts of "Amen!"
The event took place at the JTI Fountain at Main Street Plaza on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Jessica Kidd, a 36-year-old Danville native who lives in Blackstone in Nottoway County, announced the event on social media, but many who attended the peaceful protest stopped and listened after they happened to be driving by, she said.
"I've got goosebumps," she told the Danville Register & Bee just after a large part of the crowd broke away to march across the King Memorial Bridge.
Kidd, who served eight years in prison for fraud and other offenses and now has a prison ministry, said God told her to hold the event.
"There's just to so much animosity," she said, adding that everyone was there to "start a love revolution."
Others also coordinated the event, including 18-year-old Danville resident Dasia Swift, 18-year-old Isabella Henley, 20-year-old Sam Faison and 18-year-old Emma Jones.
"We're white, so we decided to use our white privilege for something that's good," Henley said, referring also to Faison, Jones and Kidd.
Tederick Holland, 27, of Danville, said, "I came out to support my people and support the cause."
Danville resident Sheila Calloway told the Register & Bee she felt pain when she saw the video of 46-year-old George Floyd with the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on his neck, repeatedly saying he couldn't breathe.
"It hurt me to my soul," Calloway, 35, said. "It hurts me that my son has to fear for his life every time he goes outside."
Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis while being arrested, held down by a Minneapolis police officer's knee. The video shows Floyd telling officers he is in pain and can't breathe. Then, his eyes shut and he goes silent. He was pronounced dead shortly after.
That officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested on Friday and faces charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
For 29-year-old Danville resident Remii Morgan, the event was "to come together to show that what happened to George Floyd must not happen again."
"It has to stop," she said.
She was both saddened and outraged when she saw the video of Floyd taking his last breaths.
"I was hurt and, more so, angry because it could have gone a different route," she said of the situation. "An innocent person lost their life at the hands of someone who was supposed to be protecting us."
Though the event was peaceful, one young man passing by in front of Me's Burgers & Brews heckled a speaker.
"We can't hear you, gangsta!" the white, red-headed man shouted. Some of the participants looked over at him but immediately refocused their attention to the speaker.
Kidd told the Register & Bee she hopes to hold similar events every weekend in Danville.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.
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