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O'Linda Watkins, president of the Moore County NAACP, holds a white rose in honor of George Floyd on June 3, 2020, in Southern Pines.

Hundreds of people knelt in silence for nearly nine minutes Wednesday in downtown Southern Pines in honor of George Floyd, whose slaying in police custody has sparked a national outcry.

The silent tribute was timed to last the approximately 8 minutes and 46 seconds that a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck before the unarmed black man died in a Minneapolis street on May 25. Floyd, who had no pulse for three of those minutes, was born in nearby Fayetteville and will return to North Carolina on Saturday for a public viewing in Raeford.

Derek Chauvin, the officer seen killing Floyd in a cellphone video made by a teenager, is charged with second-degree murder. Shortly before Wednesday’s ceremony in the Sandhills, the three other law enforcers at the scene during Floyd’s death were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

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Peace vigil for George Floyd in downtown Southern Pines. 

Billed as a peace vigil, the demonstration in Southern Pines was organized by the Moore County NAACP. O’Linda Watkins, the group’s president, called on the many masked mourners in attendance to “move from anger to action.”

“My ancestors, slaves in the Cape Fear Valley, were property,” Watkins told the crowd. “Until you get to know us as human beings (…) we can never have the honest talk and the construction actions needed to dismantle the racist mentality that many police still have.”

Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans, according to a database assembled by The Washington Post. The database, which comprises reports of fatal shootings, does not include deadly police encounters like the ones involving Floyd and Eric Garner, whose 2014 death in a chokehold has been widely compared with Floyd’s killing.

During the vigil, attendees were handed flyers outlining a dozen ways in which residents can rally for systematic change. Some of the recommendations include petitioning for the banning of “knee holds” by law enforcers and demanding to see disciplinary records for officers accused of misconduct.

Earlier in her remarks, Watkins singled out Ida B. Wells, the pioneering black investigative journalist who helped form the NAACP. The organization, Watkins said, has “always depended on women like Ms. Wells to publicize the evil of racism.”

In that spirit, she asked the audience to recognize Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old woman who filmed Floyd’s killing. “For nine long minutes, she stood her ground,” Watkins said of Frazier.

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Miss Moore County Karolyn Martin reads the names of 50 black men and women who have been killed in recent years through excessive force.

Carol Haney, mayor of Southern Pines, was one of several other people who spoke during the vigil. She informed the crowd of a local proclamation inspired by Floyd.

“In part, it reads that George Floyd lost his life in a despicable act which has led to protests with some, like this, peaceful,” Haney said. “It states what we support, what we denounce and what we will not tolerate.”

The proclamation, which was to be voted on later that evening by the Southern Pines Town Council, would declare June 6 as a “day of remembrance” for Floyd.

A longer version of this article will appear later on ThePilot.com and in Sunday's newspaper.


(17) comments

J.D. Rhoades

Ever notice how the people saying "Good Cops shouldn’t get blamed for what the Bad Apples do" are often the same people cheering for the clubbing and injuring of peaceful protesters because of looters?

Kent Misegades

Of course justice must prevail in the very rare cases of bad apples among the police. But to imply the existence of systematic racism among police is simply false. Many of the purported cases have been quickly debunked, however the left continues to spread falsehoods in their bizarre effort to destabilize our nation through identity politics. Slandering police also leads to many of them seeking other careers. Look at what happened to crime rates in Baltimore when the former mayor there, Democrat Catherine Pugh (now serving a jail sentence for federal fraud, tax and conspiracy) told police to be less visible in crime-ridden neighborhoods. They did. Crime skyrocketed. Keep slandering our police and we’ll live in a lawless nation. See the looting and violence occurring in Democrat-run cities for proof.

Kent Misegades

See Blackdignity.org. For instance: “ Since 1973, abortion has reduced the black population by over 25 percent. Twice as many African-Americans have died from abortion than have died from AIDS, accidents, violent crimes, cancer, and heart disease combined.”. One must ask: why do Democrats so strongly support Medicaid-funded abortions that disproportionately kill Black babies?

Kent Misegades

Isn’t this nice feature of The Pilot called “opinions” ? If you don’t like mine, don’t read them. Why does the left always start name-calling when they don’t like the opinions of others? Why do they always react viscerally when the topics of Black-on-Black gang violence or the systematic murder of Black babies is mentioned? Don’t all lives matter, especially the innocent unborn? The left always starts by oppressing thought and speech that doesn’t fit their agendas, the first step on Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Note - the violence in the streets is occurring in cities run for decades by the left. How do the supposed purveyors of Love and Peace explain that?

Matthew Gritzmacher

Disagreement on this platform is in now way oppressing your thought or speech, as evidenced by the fact that you are still free to comment.

J.D. Rhoades

No one who supports the Name Caller in Chief can expect to be taken seriously when they complain about name-calling.

Susan O'Connell

Whataboutism is a classic red herring used by weak thinkers. The issue is systemic racism and police brutality which must be eliminated.

Mary Fales

Kent, what is WRONG with you? You need a hobby that doesn’t involve commenting on the Pilot. And you need friends. Or a hug. You must not get those very often. You just seem like a terrible person. Enough.

Kathy Wright

Mary, Kent is brainwashed and unfortunately, he has been that way since birth. Also unfortunate is the fact that the rest of us have to put up with him and ones like him.

Kent Misegades

When will a similar event be held for the 10 people murdered in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend (despite a lockdown and strict gun laws there), or for the over 100,000 Black babies systematically murdered in American abortion clinics since the start of this year?

Dan Roman

Kent is the perfect example of the the reason we have racial, political, social and economic problems in the USA which divide us. By promoting the divisiveness from which we are suffering he is the problem (and is incapable of so understanding), and not the solution.

Susan O'Connell

Agree Dan, there is no nuance or context with many people- just extreme thinking. They argue with the classic whatabout-isms. They use inaccurate words with moral judgements like “ elective abortions” . Fortunately the Supreme Court guaranteed women full autonomy and full citizenship 47 years ago and most abortions are done at home. Black on black crime , white on white crime and abortions have nothing to do with the George Floyd murder.

Matthew Gritzmacher

I encourage you to organize one!

Kent Misegades

Matthew, a decade ago I discovered that the Blue Cross insurance policy covering all NC government employees at all levels covered elective abortions. Taxpayers were unknowingly paying for these abortions. I brought this to the attention of members of the state legislature who were successful in eliminating this coverage. This saved taxpayer expense but far more importantly saved lives of the innocent. I also support an organization that provides free ultrasound imaging to expecting mothers considering abortions. When these women see their own child in their womb, 80% choose not to have an abortion. We are winning this important struggle for the unborn despite fierce resistance from some who choose not to see abortion for what it is - murder of the innocent unborn.

Kathy Wright

Oh dear Kent, once again another brainwashed comment. I absolutely love it when men comment on abortion. When men can have babies, then you can comment. By the way, if men could become pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Mary Fales

Kathy, right there with you. Only Kent would turn this into an abortion topic (in which case nothing he says is valid to me, nor are his thoughts on race, for that matter). He doesn’t realize that he never offers anything constructive and always sounds like a raging or rambling lunatic. I have started reading his posts as humorous - it works. They really are laughable. But seriously, I hope his family sees these posts and will get him some help, as he seems to have classic signs of psychosis (I am not poking fun at this issue at all).

Matthew Gritzmacher

I am glad to hear that you have advocated for things you care deeply about.

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