@VALUEZTV AM EDITION
In George Floyd's final moments, as a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck, Floyd called out for his dead mother.
Those agonizing moments, caught on video and since shared with the world, led Melva Lane to Middletown Sunday where she, her son and several other family members joined hundreds in protesting police brutality and systemic racism.
"To hear George Floyd call for his mother touched my heart in such a way, I can never explain to you," Lane said. "If my son were ever to call for me, anywhere in this world, I would move mountains to get to him. That's why I stand here, in honor of George Floyd's mother."
Starting at Broad and Main streets, people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and ages joined in the latest of several protests across Delaware in response to Floyd's death.
From a stage at the edge of the intersection, religious leaders, community activists and local politicians called for changes in how police operate, encouraged attendees to vote and emphasized the need for "uncomfortable conversations."
"If we want this time to be different, we've got to do different," said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, who wore a black t-shirt with "ERACISM" imprinted in white. "Individually, take a look in your mirror. What can you do that nobody else can do?"
Those in attendance, like Lane standing beside her son, came with their own connection to Floyd's story and the dozens of black Americans killed by police in recent years. Among the phrases chanted by protesters, "I want to be free, it could have been me."
Elise Sampson, a rising junior at Smyrna High School and leader of the school's black student union, said as early as eighth grade she had teachers call her offensive names. She carried a sign reading, "CRAZY, you love my CULTURE but hate my SKIN."
"People in America love black culture and they love to use black culture to their advantage, but when it comes time to love black people and love us as people that same respect is not given and is not shown," Sampson said.
Sampson said she attended the protest, which was her first, to educate people who may not be aware of how their actions affect others.
"If you’re not educating the people around you, if you’re not educating your peers, then there is no change," she said.
Irina Turner held two signs: "BLACK LIVES HAVE, DO AND WILL ALWAYS MATTER!" and "ALL MOTHERS GOT SUMMONED WHEN GEORGE FLOYD CALLED OUT FOR HIS MOMMA."
Originally from Bulgaria, Turner is married to a black man and has three mixed children. Growing up there, people were "not seen as color," instead "seen as people," she said. When Turner first came to the U.S. the way she saw black people treated sent her into "emotional shock."
"What I want to see is all children treated equally," Turner said. "I’m so glad to see the community coming together in this way... I want to know that maybe my kids don’t have to tell their kids what to do when they get pulled over, how to react when they are arrested so they stay alive.
"This is what this is about. Change is going to be slow but it has to happen."
The afternoon started with nine prayers, led by rabbis, pastors, imams and bishops, to represent the nearly 9 minutes the Minneapolis officer knelt on Floyd's neck. After almost two hours of speeches and passionate rallying cries, the protesters marched down Main Street and took a left on New Street before looping back around through the parking lot of Louis Redding Middle School.
The protests remained entirely peaceful, with police blocking off roads for the protesters throughout the afternoon. Neighbors along the route offered protesters water and joined in the chants. A number of businesses posted signs in their windows in solidarity.
Several of the speeches focused on the idea that compared to previous efforts to fight for equality, this recent groundswell feels different. In calling on protesters to vote and increase involvement in local government, many speakers said the current movement must be taken advantage of.
From the back of the crowd, longtime Middletown resident Kevlin Rawlinson agreed.
"If they don't get it right this time, they're not going to get it," he said. "It's unity here now. It ain't just about blacks, it's everyone."