By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – On Sunday evening, May 31st, residents in Delray Beach held a demonstration in honor of George Floyd at Veterans Park. The graphic killing of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25th, over a $20 counterfeit bill has sparked national protests, and in many cities wide-spread violence and looting.
In Delray Beach at least eighty people gathered in a peaceful protest, the community coming together to protest the injustice and show solidarity. Most wore masks and face covering as the coronavirus pandemic still looms and CDC guidelines suggest social distancing continue.
Shelly Petrolia, Mayor for the City of Delray Beach, said “Delray Beach has always been a welcoming city. The vigil that took place was a true reflection of who we are. It was peaceful, it was respectful, it was honest and it was moving.”
“The vigil was centered on better understanding what is taking place and how best to effect change,” she said. Adding that the message the city wants to provide residents in this time of strife is, “That we are united in the belief that everyone should be treated equally. As we bear witness to racism and systemic oppression, we must act.”
At the vigil yesterday, Shelia Townsend, told the Palm Beach Post, “we’re on the cusp of some big changes,” whether with regard to shifts in elected officials or boosts in people’s awareness of their own biases. The first step to any kind of change is an admission … and being open for self-analysis,” she said.
Other areas in Palm Beach County saw more disruptive protests. Demonstrators blocked traffic on Interstate 95, marched over the Royal Park Bridge toward Palm Beach, home of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, and came face-to-face with riot-gear-clad police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at some protesters.
The Palm Beach Post also reported that shots were reported fired in West Palm Beach and there were signs of possible looting at some stores. Police also took measures to protect other retail areas, like Worth Avenue on Palm Beach and the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens.
On May 28th, Delray Beach Police Chief made a statement. “By now many of you have seen the disturbing video of the man who died at the hands of the Minneapolis police officer, I want to express my deepest sympathy for the family of Mr. George Floyd.”
Adding, “I stand by Chief Arradondo of the Minneapolis police department with the swift actions he took following the incident, there is no training at this point department that teaches officers to take this kind of action.”
“I believe the officers who stood around are just as guilty in showing a complete disregard for human life. Someone should have stopped it,” Chief Sims said. “I have sent a video message to our police officers to let them know how I feel and how the executive staff feel about what happened.”
Concluding, “at this police department, we will continue to build community trust and be willing to question and denounce actions that are wrong.”