As they had the previous three days, protesters marched the streets of downtown Fredericksburg on Tuesday, demanding justice for the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

But this time, officers of the Fredericksburg Police Department walked along with them, joining them in chants of "Black lives matter!" and "No justice, no peace!" and raising their fists silently in a minute of quiet to honor Floyd and the other black men and women who died by police hands. 

"What happened in Minneapolis isn't us," Fredericksburg Police Capt. Betsy Mason said, addressing the protesters before they began marching. "Believe me, no one hates a bad cop more than a good cop."

City police spent several hours before the protests Tuesday blocking off a route for the marchers that went along Caroline and Princess Anne streets between Pitt Street and Market Square.

One of the organizers of Tuesday's protest, Anthony Footé, reached out to the police as well as members of Fredericksburg City Council to invite them to participate. 

"This is a battle won," Footé said. "The police in our city are behind us."

Footé said he wanted to "change the dynamic" of the protests in the area, which in the past two days have turned tense and at times violent. 

City police fired tear gas at crowds gathered on Cowan Boulevard and later in downtown Fredericksburg on Sunday night. On Monday, there was a showdown between protesters and Stafford County deputies on Falmouth Bridge. 

"A lot of individuals in the community are angry," Footé said. "We wanted to step in and show what needs to be done. There's a way to protest."

Footé said he feels confident that nonviolent protest will lead to change. 

"It starts with us," he said. "Change will be the new norm."

Speaking to protesters before the march began, Footé asked them to stick to the route laid out by police.

"We can't go to [U.S. 1] though," he said. "They can't save us."

Mason told protesters, "We appreciate you doing this. We're glad you're here."

The City Council met Tuesday and passed a resolution saying it joined the community in "condemning acts of violence by law enforcement against black people."

"We call on the people of Fredericksburg to come together, to listen to one another, and love each other, and to write justice, equality, respect, and peace into the future of the City," the ordinance reads. "We pledge ourselves to this continuing experiment in self-governance, and we recognize the role of peaceful protest as an essential element of our democracy. Black Lives Matter."

Spotsylvania Sheriff Roger Harris also issued a statement in support of the protesters Tuesday. 

"The excessive use of force and police brutality has no place in Spotsylvania and no place in America," Harris said in a video posted to Facebook. "Spotsylvanians share in this gut-wrenching heartache. We will continue what we can do combat race-based police violence."

In his statement, Harris called on elected officials to "invest more in police training and, more importantly, invest in recruitment, screening, psychological pre-employment vetting and other proven means to prevent those not fit to serve and from slipping through the cracks as is happening far, far too often today."

Stafford Sheriff David Decatur issued a statement on Floyd's death on May 30. 

"When that officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd and watched him take his last breath, he tarnished the badge and abdicated his duty to his community," Decatur's statement reads. "Even worse, the killing of George Floyd has bled fear into the African American community and incited concerns that every law enforcement officer is like the one who pinned George Floyd to the ground as he screamed for help."

"Today, we want to assure the community that racism, hate, and excessive use of force by law enforcement will find no home in Stafford County."

Adele Uphaus-Conner: 540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

Recommended for you

Load comments