UPDATED: Protesters gather in Germantown to speak out about death of man in Minneapolis
Police didn’t see any local protests on Saturday, when they were tense in many U.S. cities
Protesters gather in Germantown on Sunday.
Photos by Caitlynn Peetz
As protests continued for the sixth day across the country, about 200 protesters gathered in Germantown, marching for hours and demanding justice after a white officer was charged with killing a black man in Minnesota.
The demonstration was peaceful as the crowd stopped in major intersections, sitting for several minutes and blocking traffic while chanting “No justice. No peace,” “I can’t breathe” and “Say his name. George Floyd” during a protest that lasted about seven hours.
There have been protests in cities around the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis man. He died on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground for several minutes and pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, even though Floyd was saying he could not breathe.
Police have said they were responding to a 911 call reporting that someone used a fake $20 bill to buy something at a store.
Chauvin’s actions were captured on video by a bystander. He has been charged with murder and manslaughter.
Protests bubbled over in some cities this weekend, leading to vehicles and businesses being damaged and looted.
Throughout Sunday’s protest in Germantown, Montgomery County police blocked roads as the crowd approached. There didn’t appear to be any altercations between protesters and law enforcement as officers watched from the fringes.
As the protest developed, police closed Germantown Road between Aircraft Drive and Crystal Rock Drive. At one point, protesters sat in a line across the road with their signs.
Some people carried cases of water bottles and offered them to protesters. Some handed bottles to police officers.
Naeemah Hill of Gaithersburg carried cardboard signs that said “Make George Floyd the last one killed by PIGS” and “Defund MCP,” which referred to Montgomery County police. Hill said she attended Saturday night’s protests in D.C. and was there “until the wee hours of the morning.”
Hill said she planned to rest on Sunday, but decided to join the Germantown protest when she heard about it from her sister.
“How does a guy [Chauvin] that kills a man in broad daylight on camera get a bail? Bail. There’s no bail for a black man,” she said.
Hill said she has been protesting for police reform since the early 1990s, following the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
Tracey Noland of Germantown said she first saw the protest on Facebook Live, starting at 11 a.m. She joined in the afternoon.
At one point, she said, protesters knelt at the intersection of Germantown and Middlebrook roads for nine minutes to symbolize how llong Chauvin could be seen pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck.
“I’d never seen a protest so close [to home], and I’m glad to have the opportunity to join, and that’s why we’re out here today,” Noland said.
In February, the personal finance website WalletHub named Germantown — which is unincorporated — the third most diverse small city in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 24% of residents are black, 18% are Asian, 24% are Hispanic and 32% are white.
Around 6 p.m. on Sunday, at the intersection of Germantown Road and Aircraft Road, the crowd began dispersing.
“You did a good thing today. It’s time to go home,” a woman said into a megaphone.
Slowly, people did. Some lagged behind and talked, and police asked them to move out of the street. Others picked up trash that was left behind.
Police have Response Team ready
Earlier Sunday, Montgomery County police said they had not heard any reports of protests in the county on Saturday, but they were prepared if there were any.
Capt. Tom Jordan wrote in an email on Sunday morning that police were “monitoring events happening across the country and nearby.”
“We have police resources available in the event that a protest or demonstrations occur within Montgomery County. We have a Special Events Response Team available in the event anything happens within the County,” he wrote.
Second District Commander Sean Gagen, whose patrol area includes Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac, said in an interview Sunday that he didn’t know of any planned protests in his territory, but the department is “gathering information every day” on whether there might be protests and sharing it with each district commander.
“My plan for the Second District is we’re going to be increasing our presence throughout the commercial business districts, down along Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase and the D.C. line and throughout the Bethesda central business district,” he said.
Gagen said Saks Fifth Avenue at 5555 Wisconsin Ave. in Friendship Heights was damaged on Saturday, but he couldn’t confirm it was connected to protests or rioting in D.C.
“I think it’s too soon to try to link it to the rioting and looting in D.C., but that’s something we’re looking into,” he said.
Gagen didn’t know what time officers responded to the scene. He said when police got there, “multiple vehicles” were leaving and headed into D.C. He said police are investigating the damage as a commercial burglary, but aren’t sure if anything was taken.
Multiple law enforcement agencies have released statements in the last week expressing anger over Floyd’s death, including Montgomery County police Chief Marcus Jones.
“The acts of these officers in Minneapolis are not representative of our profession and they are certainly not representative of the values of our department as a whole,” Jones wrote in a statement, WJLA reported.
Rockville Police Chief Victor Brito also condemned the killing of Floyd in a statement and said he is concerned about the possible breakdown of police-community relations.
“RCPD has worked tirelessly and will continue to build and maintain trust and partnership with our community. Although the incident did not happen locally, we are well aware that it can and will damage the relationships between law enforcement and communities across the country,” he said in a statement.
He also said: “We are situationally aware of what is occurring locally and nationally and are continuing to exercise the positive communication and community policing engagement we are known for.”
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org