Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown Minneapolis Sunday, just one day before jury selection begins in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd.
The purpose of the silent march organized by the Racial Justice Network was to demand justice for Floyd, and greater accountability for police, according to reports. Some of the demonstrators carried a casket with Floyd’s picture on it and a large banner that read, “I CAN’T BREATHE!”
Chauvin was fired and charged with murder after a bystander video showed him pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck. The protesters originally gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center, which is set to hold the trial and recently implemented barricades and secure fencing due to possible unrest.
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“They’re young and we try and shelter and protect them, but at the same time, we teach them the truth of what’s happening in our communities and they understand,” said Amenah Agunwamba, who brought her daughters to the march, according to FOX 9 of Minneapolis.
Protesters later marched to Hennepin Avenue and Fourth Street, where the names of people killed by police in Minnesota within the last 20 years were read, reports said.
Names were also written on a scroll that was carried through the streets, according to the station.
“It was unbelievably [powerful] just to sit in the space and hear the enormity of the loss with every name. Every one of those names represents someone who was loved by a family, by a brother or a sister or a child or friends,” said Kaia Hirt a protester in attendance, according to Minneapolis’s WCCO-TV.
Others hosted prayers that called for hope and peace, reports said.
However, some Minneapolis business owners are cautiously bracing for more unrest after riots last year caused an estimated $500 million in damage in the city alone.
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“A lot of the suffering were minority business owners too, you know, and a lot of us start from scratch and it just takes time to heal. Hopefully, we can all work together,” said Jay Chau, a manager of a family-owned hair salon across the street from Minneapolis’ fifth police precinct.
Police – who are still under fire for allegations of excessive use of force during last summer’s riots, said they will “be as kind as we can be.”
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“But don’t mistake our kindness for weakness,” Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said. “We are as prepared as any city in America could be and we are as prepared as we can be to quell violence and destruction.”
Organizers of Sunday’s march said people will gather around the government center early Monday, according to FOX 9. They are preparing for a long day of protests on the first day of jury selection.
Fox News’ Matt Finn contributed to this report