About 500 people in Daytona Beach on Thursday, June 11, brandished signs and chanted for justice and reform on police brutality against African Americans in light of George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
Those marching in the "I Can't Breathe Peaceful Protest" — organized by the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance, Daytona Beach Police Department, Bethune-Cookman University School of Religion, M.L.K. Celebration of Florida and city leaders — included men, women and children of diverse races and ethnicities. The people marched from City Island to the Daytona Beach City Hall on 301 S. Ridgewood Ave., accompanied by DBPD. Once there, Rev. Dr. Victor Gooden of New Life Church in Daytona encouraged the crowd to repeat, "We are one people. Diverse, but not divided."
In keeping with that theme, different members of the faith community — Jewish, Muslim and Christian — as well as local officials delivered short speeches in front of city hall. Near the end of the speeches, the crowd remained silent for eight minutes, repeating "I can't breathe," the phrase uttered by Floyd during the eight minutes former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held him to the ground with a knee to his neck. The said the phrase at the beginning of each minute mark, growing quieter with every minute past.
The first to speak at City Hall was Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who said the "I can't breathe" mantra must be spreaad across the world until no more black lives end at the hands of law enforcement.
“Here in Daytona Beach, we are proud of our history, proud of our heritage, proud of our diversification, proud of our police department," Henry said. "But we stand with every American who says that we recognize that our judicial system is on trial."
Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri also spoke, denouncing racism and violence. He said DBPD is "progressive," though added that every agency has work to do.
“Police brutality is unacceptable and will never be tolerated here in Daytona Beach," Capri said. "The city of Daytona will never stand for it."
Ormond Beach pastor Kathy Rickey, of Unitarian Universalist and co-chair of Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony, said that what holds racism intact is the belief that society is already fair and equitable. As an example of systemic racism, she said black children in Volusia County are arrested and suspended out of school at twice the rate of white children.
“Sympathy without action is called waving from the shore," Rickey said. "While the afflicted are carried out to the sea, the sympathetic stand firmly on the ground sending their prayers and good wishes.
Pastor John Paul McGee delivered a passionate speech about the 400 years of oppression, tribulations and injustices the black community have experienced since the first slave ship arrived in the U.S. in 1619. If someone were to ask him what's different this year, McGee said it's that they have decided the injustices need to stop now.
“2020 is the first year in the fourth century and we decided that we are not taking it anymore," Mcgee said. "No justice. No peace.”