About 80 people marched the two-and-a-half miles from Butler Community College to the Butler County Courthouse Friday evening to protest the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police.
Carrying signs emblazoned with Black Lives Matter hashtags and slogans decrying racism, the marchers braved temperatures that hovered in the low 90s as they made their way north on Haverhill Road and east on Central.
There was a heavy police presence along the parade route. Several El Dorado police officers in marked and unmarked vehicles patrolled areas of town where protesters marched and gathered. At least two made the entire trek on foot with the marchers. There was no obvious counter demonstration, although a small group gathered across the street from the Courthouse and watched the protest, which remained peaceful as organizers requested in a flyer announcing the event.
After arriving at the Courthouse, the protesters dropped to the ground, many placing their hands behind their backs, and chanted, “I can’t breathe!” The chant was a reference to some of the last words George Floyd uttered to police as he lay handcuffed on the ground. Floyd died after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck as the father of three lost consciousness, according to video evidence. Chauvin continued to pin Floyd to the ground even after paramedics arrived.
Protesters chanted the names of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician from Louisville, who was shot to death by police in March after they broke into her apartment looking for a drug suspect who was already in custody. Police claimed they returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them, wounding one officer. The boyfriend said he fired because the police didn’t announce themselves and he thought someone was breaking in.
El Dorado native Jeremy Wise helped organize the demonstration and led the crowd in chants. Wise said he began following the issue of police brutality after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“It’s just getting worse…and where are the politicians for all this,” Wise said. “We can inject trillions into the stock market when it’s crashing, but when people are getting murdered for their race, you don’t hear anything about it.”
As the last rays of sunlight shone through trees lining the Courthouse lawn, the demonstration ended as the crowd once again laid prone, this time remaining silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time a criminal complaint filed against Chauvin said he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.