Several hundred protesters marched south on Rockville Pike in the heat Friday afternoon in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and criminal justice reform.
The afternoon started with a gathering in the plaza outside the Montgomery County Circuit Court building and Executive Office building in Rockville, featuring multiple speakers, including students. The crowd then walked south on Rockville Pike, which police had closed to traffic.
Friday afternoon’s protest was the latest throughout Montgomery County following the death of George Floyd – a 46-year-old black man who on May 25 was pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, in Minneapolis.
A video taken by a bystander shows Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s throat for nearly nine minutes as Floyd tries to tell officers that he can’t breathe. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers have been charged, too. All four have been fired.
In Rockville on Friday, Yotam Scheflan, a 16-year-old student at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, draped himself in an American flag with the words “I can’t breathe” written in black letters to honor Floyd’s death.
“Minorities have suffered long enough. Something should be done about it. It’s like a revolution, man. Change is coming,” he said.
Scheflan said he has been to multiple protests in Montgomery County this week. He said he wants people to understand that they have been peaceful, unlike those seen in some places around the country.
“I’m aware that there were some violent ones. … They’re not a representation of all the protests. They’re not a representation of the movement,” he said.
Among those walking down Rockville Pike was a woman dressed in scrubs, holding a sign that said “nurses for black lives.” One person waved an American flag upside down.
Other messages on signs included “Defund police and prisons” and “Say their names” with the names of several African Americans across the country who have died after or while interacting with law enforcement.
The speakers during the rally included a number of students, as well as Tiffany Kelly, a member of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, which formed in 2018 following the fatal shooting of Robert White in Silver Spring.
White was an unarmed black man shot by Officer Anand Badgujar in Silver Spring in June 2018.
White was taken to the hospital, where he later died. Badgujar was eventually cleared by a county police report after an investigation.
Kelly said White’s death and the death of Finan Berhe — a black man who was holding a knife when he charged at an officer, who shot and killed him, last month in White Oak — are examples why police reform is needed in Montgomery County.
She called on Police Chief Marcus Jones to resign, and for the County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich to pass legislation that requires the use of de-escalation tactics.
“We demand new policies that require the use of force to be the last resort. Other police departments have done this,” she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org