Here is a video overview (SEE TRANSCRIPT BELOW) of a rally on Saturday, May 30, in Ritter Park in Huntington, W.Va., the second half of WestVirginiaVille’s coverage of protests over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020.
The interviews and speakers remain pertinent. Huntington native and Marshall University graduate Barry Westmoreland, who now lives in Atlanta, speaks of what it’s like to be a young black man in Trump’s America. The Rev. Mathew Watts, of Grace Bible Church, in Charleston, WV, places the current resurgence of overt racism in historic context and how it is “woven into the American quilt.” One of the rally organizers, Whitney Chapman, speaks of the necessity of communal action at a time of division.
We also hear again, briefly, from T.C. Clemons. The first half of our coverage of the event—a 7-minute, single-take video interview with T.C. Clemons, the 2019 Cabell County WV teacher of the year—blew up quickly online after we posted it Sunday morning.
T.C.’s passionate, heart-fueled description of the lifelong racism anyone born with black skin in America encounters struck a chord that continues to reverberate. We posted the video to Facebook Sunday morning. It has since been viewed more than 85,000 times and shared nearly 2,000 times.
These are dangerous, troubled times for a leaderless United States. With a black hole in the White House—sucking away all common sense, the rule of law, and basic human decency—communal effort is ever more important. ~ Douglas John Imbrogno, editor, WestVirginiaVille.com
TRANSCRIPT of AUDIO from VIDEO:
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: The temperature was cool and the sun bright in Ritter Park in Huntington, West Virginia, on Saturday, May 30. It was a morning for kids on bikes and dogs on leashes. The peace pervading the park was not felt in cities across America. Many were burning—and are still—with anger, protests, and confrontation over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.
A Huntington protest was a peaceful one, but passionate.
BARRY WESTMORELAND: “Those were the words coming out of his mouth! Saying he couldn’t breathe! When he held his head down to the ground and killed him! Let’s take two minutes moment of silence for George Floyd.”
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: With all the chaos in the country, a group of area residents felt the need for a local gathering of concern and solidarity. Whitney Chapman, originally from South Charleston, now studies Film and Media Production at Marshall University. She was part of that group.
WHITNEY CHAPMAN: “When we first saw what was going on right now in the country, we were looking at the George Floyd story. And I saw everyone in our community was becoming outraged. I saw on social media how they were posting about it, how they were speaking out about it. But I didn’t see anything happening about it. And I saw on other communities how they were coming together, and they were protesting, but peacefully. And I wanted to do something like that. So, I started on Facebook, I created a group. And within three days, it blew up incredibly huge. And we’re here today, now.”
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: Hundreds showed at Ritter Park, black and white, young and old. Marshall graduate Barry Westmoreland is now a young actor in Atlanta, back home because of COVID-19. He did not mince words about how one wrong encounter with white authority can change everything.
BARRY WESTMORELAND: “I’m here today because of the injustice of my people. Of people who look like me. Things like this, things where black men, black women, are hunted and preyed upon. And then it’s glossed over. It’s just not right. Because of the color of my skin, I could just be pulled over. That I can’t have nice things because if I have nice things, then it means that I’m a drug dealer or that I’m doing something negative. Me having nice things doesn’t mean that I worked hard for it, that I went to college. That I’m constantly trying to live this so-called American dream, when the American dream is not for me. It was never for me.”
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: The rally’s many speakers spoke of racism’s long and tangled-up role in American history. Charleston, West Virginia, pastor Matthew Watts put today’s headlines into a timeline of the country’s past.
MATTHEW WATTS: “It is woven into the fabric of the culture of the American quilt, inside of every institution. And that’s why you must use your influence and your power to eradicate it from every institution. And we all need to go and sit down with our mayors and with our chief of police, and with our city council representatives. And we must call for the police to police themselves.”
“99 percent of the police officers are solid citizens— men and women of integrity and character. And they went into the profession to serve and to protect. And within the police department itself, there are some thugs and gangsters! And the police have to police themselves. They know who the thugs are! And they know who the gangsters are!”
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: Change is needed in American society, but won’t happen without a community of effort, said Ally Layman. She is a candidate for Huntington City Council, a founder and president of Huntington Pride, and a member of Huntington Mayor Steve Williams’ LGBTQ Advisory Committee,
ALLY LAYMAN: “We all need to stand up for each other. And we all need to be here in unity, for equality, for diversity, and inclusion. Nobody can be silent anymore. I honestly feel like with the president that we have today, he makes it okay for there to be hate and for it to be fueled. And we need to stop that. We need to get out and vote. And get good people who have everyone in mind, to change our country because this needs to stop. Period.”
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: Attending the rally was Mayor Steve Williams, who said he was alarmed at the behavior of the Minneapolis officers involved in the death of George Floyd. De-escalation training for police departments is a must, said the mayor.
STEVE WILLIAMS: “That is an ongoing process with us. Actually, as a matter of fact, I’ve reviewed this week with them, to say: ‘All right, so what are we doing every every single week? That is an active part of our training—de-escalation training. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Constantly.”
WESTVIRGINIAVILLE: In early afternoon, the hundreds attending the rally walked along Eighth Street on the march to Pullman Square. And quiet returned to Ritter Park. But the passion stirred by the rally remained.
STEVE WILLIAMS: “What happened in Minneapolis is unacceptable. Anybody with any humanity looks at and their heart breaks and knows that that’s absolutely unacceptable. Now, the first thing that I thought was, my god! How could somebody in uniform be sitting there, nearly breaking this man’s neck.”
T.C. CLEMONS: “On a daily basis, we are confronted with this. Daily. It may be subtle. And sometimes it’s just right in your face. But every day we’re faced with this.
ALLY LAYMAN: “I’ve cried a lot. I can’t imagine feeling the way… I don’t know. I just have to … I just have to be here. I have to try to do something … Sorry.”
WHITNEY CHAPMAN: “We’re going to stand strong. We’re going to keep our heads up and stand in solidarity. Share what we need to share. And make sure their voices get heard, their stories of injustice are told, and they have the allies that they need. And I hope that our community will open their eyes and see what’s going on in the country right now. And how we need them to help.”
~ “A Saturday of Protest in Huntington WV”: What it’s like to be a black man in Trump’s America. Why communal effort is needed. How racism is woven into “the American quilt.” PART 2 of our coverage of a Huntington WV rally protesting the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
~ “They Know Who the Thugs Are”: Within the police department itself, there are some thugs and gangsters, says Rev. Matthew Watts. “And the police have to police themselves. They know who the thugs are! They know who the gangsters are!”
~ “WATCH THIS: What Needs to be Said About George Floyd’s Murder”: We were looking for a quote at a Huntington, West Virginia rally in protest of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis policemen. We got far more than a quote.