On a day when Donald Trump preened and proclaimed that George Floyd would be “happy” with the huge job gains registered in the wake of the global pandemic, a group of Princeton, Texas, residents gathered at a park under a sweltering sun to honor Floyd’s memory.
Floyd, as the world knows, died more than a week ago when Minneapolis cops arrested him for a non-violent offense, put face down on the pavement and then snuffed the life out of him. The officer who killed him is white; Floyd was black.
Floyd’s death has triggered a national protest response that today found its way to this Collin County community.
They called a “unification rally,” given that there was no parade that required a police presence, although the Princeton Police Department dispatched about three patrol cars on the edges of the park just to stand by in case.
The rally drew a gathering of about 100 residents. Some of them were carrying signs: Black Lives Matter. Vote for Change, Silence is Violence, There Comes a Time when Silence is Betrayal; one sign asked, “What are you going to do to combat racism?”
The unification rally was organized by Princeton High School students. No one from City Hall was there. No one from the Princeton Independent School District (at least no one that I could recognize) came to the rally at J.M. Caldwell Sr. Park. It was an overwhelmingly white crowd of folks.
Off to the side members of the Princeton Veterans of Foreign Wars post handed out bottles of water. Jason Ash, a life member of the VFW post, said he was there “to support people’s consititutional right to protest. That’s why we served.”
I pointed out the voter registration table and Ash said, simply, “I hope everyone turns out to vote this November.” Indeed.
The climax of the unification rally occurred under the shelter when participants were asked — if they were able — to lie on the pavement, place their hands behind their backs and be silent for 8 minutes, 46 seconds … which is the amount of time that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pressed his boot into the back of George Floyd’s neck. Floyd cried out for his mother, he pleaded with Chauvin to let him get up, saying “I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd is the latest African-American to die a martyr for the cause of racial justice and equality. Tragically, he won’t be the last one. However, his death has spawned a movement that has found its way to communities of all sizes and backgrounds.
I am glad — and proud — that Princeton High School’s young people have declared to the world: Enough is enough.