WINCHESTER — Haley Arnold said it was difficult to watch video of the deadly arrest of George Floyd. It also has been hard to watch some police officers beating and firing rubber bullets at protesters and reporters during nationwide protests over Floyd’s death and police brutality.

“The brutality has gotten out of control to say the least, and it’s just getting worse every day,” said Arnold, a co-organizer of “I Can’t Breathe” Winchester, the group organizing two protests today in Winchester. “It’s a scary thing to think that you’re protected and then it goes the opposite way.”

Arnold, who has friends who are police officers, emphasized the protests are not anti-police. Instead, they are about holding rogue officers accountable.

“When a cop takes off his uniform, he’s just a person,” she said. “Just because they put that uniform on doesn’t mean they can just skip past the reality of murdering people. So that accountability has to be there.”

Arnold said organizers want today’s protests to be peaceful and marchers to be safe. Participants are being urged to wear masks and socially distance due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tables will be set up to provide masks and water to marchers.

The local group was formed shortly after the death of Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Former police Officer Derek Chauvin — seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds — and three other former officers have been charged over the death. The group held its first protest on Sunday in downtown Winchester without a city-required permit, but it has obtained a permit for today’s demonstrations.

In a video on Wednesday, Winchester Mayor John David Smith Jr., Winchester Police Department Chief John R. Piper and Thea Thomas, president of NAACP Winchester chapter 7127, condemned Floyd’s death, expressed solidarity with the demonstrators and called for peaceful protests. Smith and Thomas said a community forum on policing is being planned.

“We need to have conversations with our law enforcement departments about policies including if or when deadly force can be used. Plus, what disciplinary actions are taken against officers when misconduct occurs and will the commonwealth attorney’s office prosecute if a George Floyd situation was to occur here,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, these questions and many more will be answered through the future town hall meeting.”

Thomas said in an interview on Thursday that the NAACP is not involved in organizing today’s marches, although some individual members may participate. Thomas said she doesn’t plan to attend due to coronavirus concerns.

Smith said in an email on Thursday that the panel forum with community leaders is tentatively scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. on June 27. The location and specific topics haven’t been decided. Smith said incidents like Floyd’s death happen everywhere.

“Our community is not exempt from this,” Smith said. “Dialogue gets people communicating and understanding the concerns and needs in the community.”

Smith said he’s never been harassed by local police since moving here in 2003, but he has been pulled over for “driving while black” before. He recalled being stopped and handcuffed in Centreville over a faulty rear signal.

Piper said in the video that he and other officers are “disgusted and disturbed” by Floyd’s death and other recent deaths nationwide in which police have been accused of using excessive force.

“Having said that, the men and women of the Winchester Police Department are professionals and they are dedicated to transparency and continuing an open dialogue with members of this community,” Piper said. “I’m committed to being as transparent and progressive as possible.”

Police spokeswoman Lt. Amanda R. Behan said on Thursday that police will ensure that marchers and the public are kept safe during the march. She asked marchers to avoid walking in the street, wear masks and socially distance when possible.

Like many of the high-profile deaths of citizens at the hands of police caught on video in recent years, Floyd was black and Chauvin was white.

Arnold, a 25-year-old Stephens City resident, said as a white woman she can’t know the anger and fear black people feel as a result of racism.

“No struggle in my life could compare to that because it’s an everyday battle,” she said. “I will continue to listen and try to learn. And everyone should.”

Sources: City of Winchester, Winchester Police Department

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(22) comments

Comment deleted.
Ali

Sounds like a threat.

M4son2013

This is a peaceful protest! We are here to just show love and support for black lives. They need us to speak up for them! Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere! Looking forward to spreading the love and seeing everyone out there!

PEACE! UNITY! ONE LOVE!!!!

Comment deleted.
spencersullivan

Yay!

spencersullivan

Police are not being brutal enough on looters and rioters!!! These people are not protesters,they are domestic terrorists! They should be arrested on sight. If they do not submit to arrest, then deadly force should be approved. Our leaders have lost control of our country the moment that they cannot protect its citizens and property from criminals. How many innocent citizens across the country have been beaten, murdered, lost their business, their homes damaged?

A total of 10 unarmed black people were shot and killed by police in all of America last year - 10. Is every life precious, yes. However, more damage has been done to this country over these riots than ANY good that will come from it.

Ignorance and hate drives continued rioting and looting.

Bernie Mac

Can I bring my Trump 2020 sign with me to the protest?

Ali

Just wear your Hawaiian shirt, Boogaloo Bernie.

Jasba64

Hold the organizer's accountable for any disruptions during these protests.

Bryan.the.Nuri

What disruptions did we see? None?

Journey2goremtns1

You got that right Doc!

Veteran82

So I have to question the thought behind recent events, i.e. business owners being fined and arrested for re-opening their businesses, and, for the past week, protesters blocking traffic and failing to observe curfews; as well as looters and rioters destroying places of business and no interference from our elected officials. Perhaps someone could explain......

Doc Samson

Nope, because... Leftists = double standards, all day, every day. No explanation needed.

Journey2goremtns1

Seems nobody cares about virus anymore. All businesses should open with no restrictions. If police or government agencies show up to shut you down tell them your having a protest!

Doc Samson

Haven't you heard? Give the "secret signal" and you don't have to follow any unconstitutional mandates! This message has been brought to you by your pro-China MSM, bringing you fake headlines, lies, and outrage since 1993...

Bernie Mac

All you have to do is show your Democrat Party member ID and you are exempt from all laws and mandates.

slowe

Suggestions for the discussion panels: Create a Citizens’ Review board to review all reports of police mis-conduct. Create some kind of whistle-blower protection for a good cop to report a bad cop or bad cop behaviors and actions. Change the laws to make it no harder to prosecute a police officer for bad actions as any other citizen. Review the union contracts to assure that the police union is not protecting bad cops or police malfeasance from discipline and prosecution. Assure that the minority communities of blacks, Hispanics, gays, and women are strongly represented in these panel discussions and that they are heard and respected in the discussions and solutions. These discussions should include the WInchester police, the Frederick County police and the State police.

redsox

Mr. Lowe, I don't agree with you on a lot of things about which you post on this site. But I am with you 100% on your suggestions here.

M4son2013

Great idea!! Just moved to the Winchester area and was excited to see some positivity on this subject!

brettwad107

This is hilarious. A citizens review panel, now you are going to have citizens telling the police how they should act in situations? Really?? We really need to just disband all police departments, this way we stop putting these people in harms way and making them second guess themselves. You nor I have any training in LE and neither would a citizens panel. It is sad. We ha e went intge wrong direction, teaching and supporting people in disrespecting LEs and not listening to their orders. We actually won't need to disband the PDs as they will die by attrition. Minn PD had 48 open positions and no one to take them, this si why Chauvin and probably others are on the street still because they have no one to replace them with, when you join the force and start working then you can say what needs to be done. Totally ridiculous.

slowe

The STAR: Please report after the marches how many police officers, on and off duty, joined the marchers in support.

Conservative

Are you joining them?

Bryan.the.Nuri

We know you won't, coward.

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