By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – On Wednesday evening, June 3rd, residents and police in Delray Beach marched together in peaceful protest from Pompey Park to City Hall in honor of George Floyd, demanding change. Reverend Prince Arafat, Police Chief Javaro Sims, Coco Gauff and others spoke to the hundreds that gathered.
The graphic killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25th, over a $20 counterfeit bill, has sparked ten days of national protests, and in many cities wide-spread violence and looting, however Delray Beach demonstrations have been peaceful.
The Delray Beach Police Department said beforehand in a statement. “[We] will be participating in the planned peaceful protest this evening. We stand in solidarity with the men and women who deserve to be treated fairly and want the best for our community. We are all in this together. One Delray, One Community, One Police Department.”
Amongst others outside City Hall, Delray Beach resident and 16-year-old tennis star Coco Gauff spoke. “I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that [my grandmother] did, 50-plus years ago,” Gauff said. “You need to not be silent, ’cause if you are choosing silence, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.”
Gauff continued, “We have to understand that this has been going on for years … I was eight years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at sixteen still demanding change?”
As the SunSentinel reported, Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro Sims explained his position in a video conference, along with Chiefs Sean Brammer of Florida Atlantic University and Michael Gregory of Boynton Beach.
Chief Javaro Sims said, “Being a black man in law enforcement and a black executive in law enforcement is no greater conflict in my heart to see someone treated in that manner.”
“Law enforcement has to take a deep, big step back and look at law enforcement as a whole, and recognize things that have been done in the name of policing that have been detrimental to the African American community,” said Sims.
In an exclusive with Delray Beach Times today, Chief Sims said, “I think it’s very important to understand that the community is your police. The police is your community. I think it’s vital that we continue to work together to resolve issues that take place in our community.”
“Maintain open lines of communication, being willing to have those uncomfortable conversations and making ourselves assessable to one another to have those conversations,” he added.
In regard to why Delray Beach is able to hold peaceful protests where others have not, Chief Sims said, “I think it’s the relationships that we have established with our residents and community over the years.”
“We can’t wait until something catastrophic takes place in our community before we react,” he said. “It’s important to engage our community. That has to be the philosophy of your agency. Maintaining constant contact and building relationships and rapport with residents in your community.”
Shelly Petrolia, Mayor for the City of Delray Beach, said in a statement this morning, “Racism is America’s original sin. The death of George Floyd, suffocated by a police officers knee to his neck is beyond horrific and people of all races are standing up against the violence, the inequities, the injustice and the systematic racism that this country was built on.”
“Change won’t happen over night, but we cannot let this opportunity slip away. We can no longer ignore our friends being pulled over for ‘driving while black’, or be followed in stores because they are ‘shopping while black’, or be seen as suspicious for ‘gathering while black’, or worry their children will return home alive because they left home black.”
“Change is not just going to take a Village, it’s going to take a county! But it must begin local and it must begin now. Let’s begin with a conversation about what it will take to lead to that change!”