WESTFIELD- A peaceful student protest is being planned for Sunday, June 7 at 2 p.m. at the Westfield Senior Center in solidarity with the protests now happening globally in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers.
Students Allison Rehor and Riley McDonnell have been responsible for organizing the protest, but declined to be interviewed, saying that they don’t want the message to focus on themselves, but rather the injustices faced by minorities across the country.
The protest will begin at the Senior Center on Noble Avenue before walking to the Park Square Green. Social distancing rules will be in place to the extent that is possible, and protesters are asked to bring masks and gloves in addition to signs due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The unrest in the country began when a video began spreading of George Floyd being pinned to the ground while handcuffed with Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on the back of his neck. Over the course of eight minutes and 46 seconds, George Floyd died due to asphyxiation despite pleas from bystanders for the officers to release Floyd’s neck.
The officers had been originally called to the scene because Floyd had apparently paid for items at a store with what was believed by the clerk to be a counterfeit $20 bill. Whether Floyd knew the bill was counterfeit is unknown.
Officer Derek Chauvin was the first to be arrested, and is now being charged with second degree murder. The three other officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thau, and Thomas Lane have also all been arrested and charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin in Floyd’s murder.
Officer Lane, the most junior of the four officers present who had only been on the force for a year, was heard at least twice throughout the video urging Chauvin to release his knee from Floyd’s neck. His pleas were ignored by the 20-year police veteran.
The protests quickly morphed into being more than just about George Floyd. The names of Breonna Taylor, Eric Gardner, and Philando Castile, have been chanted in the streets, among others. These are the names of unarmed black Americans that had been killed by police in scenarios where their use of force was considered unjustified.