ROCKINGHAM — The death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has sparked protests against police abuse across the country — even in Richmond County.
Several Rockingham businesses shut down early on Sunday after plans to protest in the area were known.
There was a strong presence by the Rockingham Police Department in front of Walmart as a small group of protesters gathered.
Sheriff James Clemmons said earlier that “for the most part, things are quiet,” adding that the police department “has everything under control.”
He said those that had gathered were “just standing around talking,” when he was at the scene earlier in the afternoon.
Clemmons said law enforcement was there to make sure “we keep the community safe.”
Protests in larger cities, including Greensboro and Fayetteville, turned into riots with buildings being vandalized and burned.
Later in the afternoon, a video posted to Facebook showed several protesters in Richmond Plaza chanting “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “Stop killing us!”
The group soon moved from the parking lot to East Broad Avenue, marching to Burger King and back.
Several held signs reading: “‘I can’t breathe.’ – George Floyd,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Our Lives Matter.”
One of the organizers, who only gave his last name, McNeil, said the protest was to rally the community “and let our voice be heard…”
“Not only is about police brutality, it’s about racism, it’s about social injustices that we face every day,” he added. “We care about each other.
“They always want to ask, ‘What about black-on-black violence, black-on-black crime?’ he said. “It’s all about proximity. If all you’re close to is blacks, that’s what you’re gonna do — the same way white people kill white people, the same Hispanics kill Hispanics … It’s a narrative they try to push to make it seem like we don’t care about each other.
“But if you look around, all you see is us caring about each other,” he continued. “We’re here for each other. We’re doing this for our brother …that got killed, our brothers that got killed, our sisters that got killed unjustly. This is for everybody.”
As of 6:30 p.m., police said the protest in Rockingham remained peaceful.
George Floyd died May 25 after being handcuffed by Minneapolis police on the suspicion of passing counterfeit currency.
According to a criminal complaint filed against now-former officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged in the death, Floyd resisted being placed in a patrol vehicle, saying he was claustrophobic.
Two officers held Floyd down while Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd complained, “I can’t breathe,” several times and called out for his mother before losing consciousness. Another officer kept away bystanders who had asked the officers to ease up and to check for a pulse.
According to the complaint, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for a total of eight minutes and 46 seconds — nearly three minutes of which was after Floyd fell unconscious.
Chauvin was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
He and the three other officers involved have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.