Barrow County residents added their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement last weekend as a pair of peaceful protests were held in Winder.
Protesters lined up Saturday, June 6, at the front of the Winder Square shopping center along East May Street with signs. Then on Sunday, June 7, another group, organized by Winder-Barrow High School rising senior Gracie Griffith, marched from the Winder Police Department parking lot and new Jackson Street pedestrian plaza to the historic Barrow County Courthouse, where they rallied for about three hours with signs, chants and an open megaphone for people to voice their thoughts.
The local protests followed nearly two weeks of protests across the U.S. and the world in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25 while under arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The four police officers involved in the incident were subsequently fired and have been charged in Floyd’s death. Still, protests have continued as a means of raising awareness of systemic racism and advocacy for police reforms nationwide.
The downtown crowd Sunday held up signs and chanted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement with many cars that passed by honking in support. They said the names of Floyd and several other people of color who have wrongfully died as the result of police misconduct and/or racism. Among the names were Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old Brunswick man who was shot and killed in February. Three white men have been arrested and charged with murder after a video of the killing taken by one of the men was publicly released last month. The crowd also kneeled silently for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd struggled to breathe before dying.
While there have at times been property damage and clashes between law enforcement and citizens during protests in larger cities, the weekend demonstrations in Winder were peaceful and the moods among the crowds both warm and resolute.
On Sunday, Winder mayor David Maynard and city councilwoman Kobi Kilgore addressed the crowd downtown in a show of solidarity, while councilwoman Holly Sheats and councilman Travis Singley were also in attendance, Singley bringing a cooler full of bottled water for protesters, law enforcement and community leaders amid scorching temperatures.
Winder police chief Jim Fullington and Barrow County sheriff Jud Smith were also in attendance, while local pastor Rev. Perez Watson led a community prayer for justice, peace and understanding.