What began as a small event last Sunday at which about 15 people bent on one knee on the State House lawn for nine minutes in honor of George Floyd and to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police has grown every evening this week to the point that over 200 people attended Thursday night, according Sarah Parker-Givens, one of the two Montpelier women who organized the “take a knee” protest.
“Every night it has been growing,” Parker-Givens said. “People have heard about it by word of mouth or from social media.” Tonight (June 5) at 7 pm was the last of the planned “take a knee” events. A larger event is planned for noon on Sunday at the State House.
The nine minutes of silent kneeling reflects the approximate length of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Parker-Givens and her fellow organizer Meredith Warner described the event as a time to mourn, grieve, and reflect.
A yoga teacher, Parker-Givens discussed the events held this week in a June 1 email to some of her students in which she said she was “angry and deeply saddened by the murder of George Floyd and the impact of systemic racism on the black community.”
The email continues: “Yesterday, my dear friend organized an action event in Montpelier and we decided to include kneeling in honor of Mr. Floyd’s life. As I took a knee to honor George and to mourn the black lives lost due to police brutality and racism, the thought “we are all one” kept repeating like a mantra. May we acknowledge our own and one another’s pain and suffering. May we heal our personal and our collective trauma. May we create the life and world that aligns with our deepest human values.”
Parker-Givens said she plans to urge those in attendance Friday evening to move from reflection to action. “We will ask people to support black-led organizations that have been working on these issues and to attend the rally Sunday at the State House,” she said.
According to a Facebook post, the Sunday rally, to start at noon and to include a 2 pm march, is designed as a peaceful protest to “raise awareness about what is going on in our country regarding police brutality against black people, while also holding a safe space to grieve the lives that have been lost and continue to be lost to this day.”
The protest is being organized by three current and former Montpelier high school students: Noel Riby-Williams, MaryAnn Songhurst, and Mandy Abu-Aziz. Participants are being asked to wear black clothing, to don face masks, and to observe social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.