After the death of George Floyd, members of the community in Phoenix rally in hopes of bringing Justice for Floyd and ending police brutality.
“What’s his name? George Floyd!”
Hundreds of peopleshouted it over and over as they rallied around Phoenix City Hall and then marched through downtown Phoenix to the state Capitol and back for hours throughout Thursday evening into the early morning hours of Friday.
They were there to stand in solidarity with the family of George Floyd, who died earlier this week after being restrained by Minneapolis police.
Though police declared the protest an unlawful assembly after 11 p.m., more than 50 protesters continued to stand near 7th Avenue and Washington Street well past 12:30 a.m.
The protests grew from public outrage over the 46-year-old Floyd’s death Monday. Protests were held across the country, from Denver to Memphis to Minneapolis, where Floyd died. The Phoenix protest was organized by local activist Jarrett Maupin and All Black Lives Matter Arizona.
Protesters called for the arrest of Derek Chauvin the white police officer who knelt on the neck of Floyd, who is black, for several minutes after restraining him. The arrest was captured in a video that quickly spread across social media this week. Chauvin was later fired.
‘These killings by the police got to stop. … We gotta make it stop’
At the beginning of the Phoenix protest, people carrying “silence is violence” and “being black should not be a death sentence” signs marched around the building, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” a slogan that emerged after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Those chants continued through the night, as protesters walked between downtown and the Capitol, with relative calm. Later in the evening, rocks and water bottles were lobbed at police, and the window of at least one Phoenix police car was broken. DPS and Phoenix police used nonlethal force against protesters, including pepper spray and rubber bullets.
Protesters and police pushed back and forth, which led to police declaring an unlawful assembly. Protesters refused to leave the area, then police eventually pushed forward, using rubber bullets and pepper spray, as protesters threw water bottles and rocks back.
People are arrested and shot with rubber bullets during the George Floyd protest in downtown Phoenix on May 28, 2020.
Early in the evening, at the entrance to Phoenix City Hall, one speaker lamented the death of Antonio Arce, a 14-year-old boy who a Tempe officer shot and killed as he ran away while holding a nonlethal airsoft gun. Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced in January that the officer will not face charges.
“These killings by the police got to stop. It’s not going to stop with George Floyd and it’s not going to stop here. We gotta make it stop,” a speaker said.
Throughout the evening thecrowd chanted “I can’t breathe,” a phrase Eric Garner repeated moments before he died while an officer held him in a chokehold in New York City in 2014.
‘Things got a little rough there towards the end’
The Arizona Department of Transportation closed Interstate 10 off-ramps at Seventh Street “due to a situation in downtown Phoenix” about an hour into the protest, which began at 7 p.m.
Just before 10 p.m., the crowd surrounded a Phoenix police car, and police began using nonlethal methods of further dispersing the crowds, including pepper spray. Phoenix police tweeted that “the area between 15th and 17th Ave and Washington and Jefferson is now closed. Protesters should leave the area.”
Separately, in downtown Phoenix near police headquarters, a small group of protesters stood. Officers stood outside the doors of the building, wearing riot gear and carrying shields. Protesters tried to block a city bus and were met with more non-lethal force. The bangs were audible to the crowd.
Maupin, in an interview with The Arizona Republic, called the protest successful.
“Things got a little rough there towards the end. The Capitol was our end game and we made it there,” he said. “Our event was nonviolent.”
Maupin acknowledged not all protests and rallies in George Floyd’s name ended peacefully, calling any rioting “unfortunate.”
“The rioting is the language of the most desperate people and I have empathy for them.”
‘We shouldn’t have to do this in order to be heard’
Seth Jones, an Arizona native and Phoenix resident, said he wanted to join his voice with others after seeing another black man killed by a white police officer.
“It happens every day,” Jones said. “But at some point, you just get sick and tired of it.”
Jordan Walker, who joined the gathering, said people shouldn’t have to protest in the streets for justice reform.
“We shouldn’t have to do this in order to be heard,” Walker said. “We shouldn’t have to do this in order for justice to be made. Justice should have been held the day (Floyd) was killed by that police officer.”
Walker said he was disgusted the officers involved in Floyd’s death have only been fired rather than arrested and charged.
“It sickens me that just cause someone had a badge they’re beating the system,” Walker said. “They’re greater than the system. We can’t have that.”
Gathering meant to honor of George Floyd, modern civil rights movement
The protest, named “Stand with Minneapolis: Justice for George Floyd,” was hosted by All Black Lives Matter Arizona, Black Lives Matter Austin, Black Lives Matter St. Paul and Black Lives Matter Sacramento, according to a Facebook page for the event.
“We will gather tonight in honor of George Floyd and all the martyrs of the modern civil rights movement,” local activist and protest organizer Maupin said.
All Black Lives Matter Arizona is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter Phx Metro “because they lead protesters into dangerous situations without regard for safety or legal consequences,” according to a Black Lives Matter Phx Metro Facebook post.
Others on Twitter have also warned against attending the event.
Organizers asked that all attendees wear a face mask to limit exposure to COVID-19, “because communities of color, especially those living in poverty, are predisposed.”
Although people stood close together throughout the protest, most wore masks.
Kaila White and Uriel Garcia contributed to this story.
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