Credit: Photos by Caitlynn Peetz

When David Suggs was 12, his mother sat down with him and said, “When a police officer tells you to do something, listen. We can get you out of jail, but we can’t get you out of a casket.”

Suggs, who is black, spent several years after mentally preparing for possible interactions with police.

On March 17, it happened.

Walking to a local basketball court, Suggs was stopped by an officer for “loosely fitting the description” of someone who had committed a crime, he said.

“For all the conversations I had with my family, all the times my parents reminded me of how I needed to act when a police officer approached me, I was still terrified,” Suggs said. “That tends to be the case when you see unarmed black people killed by police year after year.”

Suggs was one of many people who attended a protest at the Montgomery County Police Department’s first district headquarters on Wednesday and shared stories about times they’ve faced discrimination.

Advertisement

About 100 people gathered at the police station and spent several hours sharing stories, chanting and demanding that people and organizations work to eliminate prejudice.

It was the latest in a series of protests and rallies in Montgomery County in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Floyd died on May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd was on the ground, saying he couldn’t breathe, as shown in a video clip capturing the encounter.

Advertisement

The officer has been charged with murder, and three other officers have been charged in connection to his death. All four were fired.

In states across the country, protesters have taken to the streets and marched in protest of Floyd’s death.

In Gaithersburg on Wednesday, Shiima Nantulya, a freshman at Walter Johnson High School said, “We won’t back down” in pursuit of equity.

Advertisement

“This time is different. I can feel it,” Nantulya said. “We have better tools and strategies to end systemic, structural, institutional and individual racism. … There is a togetherness that never existed before. If we stick together, we can end the oppression.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com