Thousands gathered at police headquarters in Chesterfield County on June 3 to march against police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, which has set off protests around the world.
The March for Equal Justice was organized by local community leaders Michael Jackson, Shedrick McCall and Tavorise Marks. The march was a non-sponsored event and not affiliated with any organization.
Marks said that County Administrator Joe Casey, Police Chief Jeffery Katz and Sheriff Karl Leonard were all invited to participate, but only Leonard was participating. Leonard was seen handing out water in front of the courthouse. Jackson said that he has a meeting scheduled with Katz on Friday afternoon.
From the steps of police headquarters, organizers stressed the three goals of the march.
1. To stand in solidarity with the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbey and Breonna Taylor, and to demand that the police officers and individuals involved are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
2. To strengthen partnerships and relationships with local law enforcement officers.
3. To advocate for specific public policy and legislative changes in policing.
The crowd left the police station and walked one mile down Route 10 to the courthouse with a police escort.
As the protesters took up the northbound lanes, cars traveling on the opposite side of the median continuously held their horns in unity as the crowd stretched half of a mile down the road.
When the peaceful crowd approached the courthouse, members of the sheriff's department offered protesters water from tents. Instead of accepting the water, protesters insisted that the officers leave the water and march with the crowd.
The crowd then continued moving forward and filed onto the steps and surrounding area in front of the courthouse and sang the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me."
Virginia State University professor Shedrick McCall then spoke from the steps of the courthouse, saying: “It’s not our racial differences that divide us, it’s our inability to recognize that our differences can unite us.”
Unity was the theme for most of the evening from the organizers and majority of the crowd.
Tavorise Marks also spoke to the injustices that continue to plague black Americans.
“The need to control the black body is the reason we established law enforcement," said Marks during a passionate speech from the podium in front of the front door of Chesterfield’s courthouse. “We are not trying to start a race war, we are trying to end one!”
Marks directly addressed the white people in the crowd.
“The help just don’t [stop] here today when you walk in the heat with us.” He was adamant that white allies are not allies if they are silent when they witness injustice of any sort.
The most moving moment of the evening took place during the closing prayer. Reverend Marcus Leggett brought his son to the top of the steps and asked for police officers to surround his son.
“God, let this vision go across this country. Let this vision tell them we know it can happen right here in Chesterfield County.”
The officers and members of the crowd then embraced in long hugs as the crowd applauded.