WINCHESTER — Underneath Winchester’s statue honoring local Confederate soldiers is a shrine to George Floyd, the black man whose death on May 25 under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked worldwide protests against police brutality.

“This monument represents racism and hate for others,” said a sign at the Civil War statue on Friday. “Stop killing black people. Destroy white supremacy,” said other signs.

America’s history of enslaving black people, to its 20th century segregation laws, to modern-day racial profiling was not lost on speakers at Friday’s protests in downtown Winchester against police brutality. A silent protest was held in the morning, and a second protest was held in the evening. Both were peaceful.

“The system is not broken. This is a system that was put in by design to keep black people down,” Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-10th, told some 500 protesters outside the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum on Friday evening. “This is America’s legacy with black Americans and we need to change it now.”

Wexton praised Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision last week to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, and she promised to work with other congressional Democrats on police reform. She cited a proposed federal ban on the the use of choke holds by police, something Winchester police are not trained to use.

“We’re not going to stop until we see real levels of criminal justice reform at all levels of government,” Wexton said. “I want you guys to hold me accountable. I want you to hold every single elected official accountable.”

Several protesters said in interviews that they supported establishing civilian review boards to hold police accountable, prosecution of rogue cops under federal hate crime laws and tying federal funding of local police departments to their level of accountability. Winchester Mayor John David Smith Jr. invited protesters to participate in a community discussion on preventing police brutality on June 27.

“If we don’t have the conversation, then this is going to happen again and again,” Smith said. “It’s going to happen to somebody very close to you. Not somebody that you’ll see on TV, but it’s going to happen to you, or a family member. Somebody it shouldn’t happen to.”

The crowd was racially diverse and included many people in their 20s and 30s. There were no arrests at the rally or at a silent march involving about 500 people earlier in the day, according to Winchester Police Chief John E. Piper. He said about 20 officers provided security at the evening march. About a dozen deputies from the Winchester Sheriff’s Office as well as several deputies from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police troopers assisted Winchester police. At the evening protest, Piper was invited to take part in a brief chant, which he did. Several other officers from various law enforcement departments were later invited to “take a knee” with the crowd, which they did.

The names of black people killed by police nationwide under questionable circumstances were chanted by the crowd during the four-hour evening demonstration. They included Breonna Taylor, shot by Louisville, Kentucky, police on March 13 when they smashed down her door in the middle of the night while executing a “no-knock” search warrant for drugs.

They chanted for Philando Castile, a driver shot in 2016 by a Minnesota police officer after reaching for his driver’s license and telling the officer that he had a concealed pistol permit. And Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy with a BB gun in his waistband who was shot by a Cleveland, Ohio, police officer before being given a chance to raise his hands.

Also named was D’Londre Minifield, a 20-year-old black man who died after running from Winchester police in 2016. A state police investigation found Minfield shot himself, but three witnesses dispute the police account, and Minifield’s family has sued the city contending an officer shot Minifeld and covered it up.

“It’s not always videotaped. It happens every day,” Minifield’s mother, Jacqueline Y. Minifield, said of police brutality. “Everybody stay angry. Because that’s the only way anything’s going to change.”

“Defund the Police, No Lives Matter Until Black Lives Matter” and “White Silence = White Violence” were among the signs carried by protesters on a rainy Friday evening. The idea that white people are complicit in racism and police brutality by refusing to condemn it or needing to see video to believe it was advanced by activist and Republican Winchester mayoral candidate Danielle Bostick. She said denying racism is like denying gravity.

“I can’t see it. Can you? But are you floating away? No. That is the reality of racism in the United States for the last 400 years and everybody here has an obligation to acknowledge it and fight it every day,” she told the crowd. “If you can cross the street and people don’t grab their purses, then you need to be there for people whose bodies are viewed as a threat.”

The rallies were organized by “I Can’t Breathe” Winchester, a Facebook group formed after Floyd’s death. Group co-organizer Terrance Wilson said in an interview that he was “disgusted” by video of Floyd’s death and scenes of police around the country beating protesters during nationwide protests over the killing.

But Wilson said he was gratified by the turnout at Friday’s protests and one on May 31. He called for individual and collective action. “I would just suggest that the community take a hard look at what’s going on because everyone can do something,” Wilson said.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(37) comments

Chupacabra

I was gonna bring my fiddle to the protest, but decided not to because I didn't want to bring violins to a peaceful protest.[scared]

Billie Mac

We need to defund our liberal public schools that are brainwashing our children with anti-American dogma.

Chupacabra

Better idea, home school them. Allow school choice. Public schools spend twice as much per student on average as a private or charter school does.

Bryan.the.Nuri

So, your solution is to repeal FAPE?

cbell1175

Dont you have warrants out for you Nuri? Or are you on Court release? You're a despicable human - Good news - I bought a house - on the lake - buy your mommies places where you stay. We'll be seeing a LOT of each other very very very soon.

Bryan.the.Nuri

@cbell1175, you're a sorry piece of work. I guess that's all you can bring, is mudslinging and baseless accusations, huh, Craig Belldina? You're a troll and a coward. You don't even belong to this community.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Ummmm, how exactly would you propose to do that?

And what "anti-American dogma" is being used to brainwash kids? Can you show us in the curriculum?

Outpost75

I’m deeply disappointed with media efforts to paint everything with a broad brush: i.e. all police are racist murderers, all whites are racist, all conservatives are bad...ad nauseam. The reactions of the Minneapolis and New York city councils s in attacking police unions as enabling bad behavior are simply leftist rhetoric pandering to weak minds. Reality is that while most cops are good, a few are indeed bad, and protected by labor unions which hinder reform. In a country governed by the Rule of Law all deserve due process, whether a anarchist who incites riot, vs. or citizens peacefully assembling to seek redress of grievances from their elected government.

What’s difficult to ignore is the fact that urban minority males tend to commit a disproportionate share of both violent and property crimes. It’s clearly shown in Uniform Crime Reporting and anecdotal zip code analysis of calls for police assistance. What some call profiling others call a clue.

All that said, no one should ever die in police custody. That damages the credibility of our justice system and tends toward lawlessness. The involved officers deserve a fair hearing before a jury of their peers. Once the facts are determined and weighed, then a magistrate must apply the law as codified. This is inherently a simple process. No rioting is required. Policing is a tough job. It’s also the only thing between civilization and anarchy.

None of this alters the criminality of the rogue policeman who caused the death of George Floyd. Nor does it alter the responsibility of the police union which protected him, despite having many complaints of excessive force on his record, being accessories before the fact. It does, however, cast doubt upon the true motives of the rioters, who would discredit the objectives of lawful and peaceful protestors, most of whom naively express little concern or moral outrage at the far more frequent murder of blacks by other blacks, or at the high rate of the murder inflicted upon our policemen. God help us all if our inner cities are permitted to descend into 3rd World Anarchy.

Doc Samson

Wow! A balanced perspective! How refreshing, thank you!

bean42900

Police have difficult jobs to do...think of all the criminals that are out of control that the police have to deal with. I'm not talking about Goerge Floyd's death, that was unconscionable. I'm talking about drug dealers, murderers, domestic violence situations, people high on drugs committing crimes...if we take away too many ways police can handle these cases, how can they do their jobs? And are you going to step in and do it if they can't? I'm not condoning anything those 4 policemen did, but I keep hearing and reading about taking tactics away from police and it scares me that they won't be able to do their jobs anymore with so many restrictions placed upon them. Not all cops are bad! Let's keep that in mind, and keep in mind how difficult their jobs really are. I want to be able to know that if I were a victim of a crime, where my life was in danger, a policeman would be able to apprehend the criminal with the means necessary to do so.

Violet

[thumbup]

Spock Here

Yes, very good points. From what I am reading on "defunding police" it is because of the things you cite. We've grown to depend on the police for more than maybe we should. Could social services and mental health improved funding help with the drugs, and domestic violence situations before they become violent. It's an interesting concept and....if implemented in a correct and uncorrupt way, could be a good thing.

Tomahawk1234

That's assuming you have any Police Officers left. The actions of a very, very small percentage of Police Officers who commit crimes like this are labeling all Police Officers as such. The killing and maiming of Police Officers in the last two weeks, the hate being spewed at them, and the threats to abolish are pushing Police Officers who are dedicated and serving/protecting all citizens out the door. Statistics show that the accusations flying around about Police killing black people in general are just flat out wrong. So, let's see how it goes when your Officers say I've had enough and bail, or watch the cities who decide to defund fend for themselves, good luck.

slowe

"Wexton praised Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision last week to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, " Will she, then, work to remove the Confederate Soldier statue in Winchester, VA?

Billie Mac

When are you gonna remove yourself from Winchester?

Whistle Dixie

Bernie, isn't it stunning to know how many people believe the Civil War was about slavery and not the economic difficulties facing the North, and MOST importantly, State Rights?

But as the Leftist communists continue to do, they seek to destroy and rewrite history to suit their interests. And in the past several years, Civil War battlefields and re-enactments have had terrorist threats from BLM and Antifa. Now the Leftists want to destroy all physical history regarding our Civil War history. What's next -- remove Winchester from the map because of the rich Civil War history here?

rjm24

@ShawFamily states’s rights to do what?

rjm24

SC’s proclamation as to why it was seceding, entitled Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, specifically mentions the “increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the Institution of Slavery". The same type of proclamations were released by Mississippi, Alabama, etc.

Anyone that says the Civil War wasn’t about slavery is either an idiot or willfully blind to basic facts. If you have a black friend (and judging by your comments, I doubt it) please tell them the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery and then see how they react.

rjm24

Oh and about the threats to battlefields, I’m sure this slipped your mind and you’re not just willfully “forgetting” this story from February:

“According to an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg in support of a search warrant, the logo of Antifa, a group that has shown up at demonstrations around the country to oppose fascism and white supremacist ideologies, was used on threatening letters sent to the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, The Winchester Star, and others. The FBI, however, narrowed the investigation to one person, a former re-enactor.”

So it was a former Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation volunteer that used an Antifa logo.

https://www.nvdaily.com/nvdaily/fbi-investigation-into-threats-focuses-on-cedar-creek-volunteer/article_fd4dd388-b4c4-5360-8e32-0d9e8d53b442.html

Spock Here

Rewrite history, how? South lost the war and everyone who wasn't dead went home. Southern generals like Lee, didn't want monuments. So y'all waited till Jim Crow came to town. Tell me where the monuments to Hitler and Mussolini are? Reenactments are a educational tool, but I do believe leftist commies aren'tthe only ones who think monuments are monuments to racism. I can guess, they don't make you uncomfortable, I wonder why

Bryan.the.Nuri

It's always cute when armchair historians, with degrees from History Channel, lecture others about historical facts.

Billie Mac

The Democratic Party is the party of slavery, the KKK, Jim Crow and segregation. That stain cannot be removed.

rjm24

@Bernie Ask a KKK member if they’re a Democrat and after they’re done punching you in the face go to google and search for “Southern Strategy”. The GOP became the party that welcomed segregationists in the 1960s. Democrats of the olden days are now Republicans. Anyone with even basic reading skills can research that. It’s Republicans like ShawFamily that are the ones defending Confederate monuments and embracing KKK ideology. Now sing with me...

If you’re racist and you know it clap your hands *clap clap*

If you’re racist and you know it clap your hands *clap clap*

If you’re racist and you know it then your attempts at rewriting history to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery even though there are countless historical documents saying otherwise will surely show it

If you’re racist and you know it clap your hands *clap clap*

rjm24

Hey Bernie, do you also think the Civil War wasn’t about slavery or do you have at least an ounce of integrity and common sense unlike ShawFamily?

Billie Mac

Good Lord, y'all are childish.

ginamcintire

Once it’s removed it will be easier to repeat with some other group (Americans) playing the part of slaves.

rjm24

I’ll take that as a yes.

ginamcintire

Remove Wexton.

Chupacabra

D’Londre Minifield had a rap sheet a mile long, his mother shipped him up here after she couldn't control him. He took the coward's way out. The bullet in his head came from the gun he shot himself with. He should never be mentioned in the same breath as George Floyd.

tippmann87

“Floyd had moved to Minneapolis after being released from Texas prison for aggravated robbery. He was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time of arrest. He went to jail for atleast 5 times and a look at George Floyd’s profile as per court documents reads like a career criminal involved in drug abuse, theft, criminal trespassing, aggravated robbery as well as entering a woman’s home and pointing a gun at her stomach while looking for drugs and money.”

Chupacabra

He was in police custody though. They had him in their hands. He did not deserve what happened to him. Minifield was running away from the police and was carrying a loaded weapon. He shot himself in the head. BIG difference with what happened to Mr. Floyd.

Spock Here

He had served his time. Paid his dues. He went to Minneapolis to start fresh, acknowledging he had to get off the ride he'd been on. That was in 2011, I think and by all accounts lived a peaceful life there. He had been detained for passing a bad check, was not only in custody, but not resisting anything and handcuffed as well. The autopsy showed, I think, that the drugs were more of a "pot" level. In any case, he did not deserve to die, much less die by torture with a knee to the neck for almost 9 minutes. You are blaming the victim and insinuating he got what he deserved.

Doc Samson

"He had served his time. Paid his dues. He went to Minneapolis to start fresh, acknowledging he had to get off the ride he'd been on."

Agreed, but being under the influence of fentanyl and meth is hardly "pot level" drug use and is likely the reason the police had such a difficult time in their initial restraining attempts. That being said, once he was restrained, there was no reason for the officer to keep his knee on his neck...

Bryan.the.Nuri

How does someone shoot themself in the back of the head?

Violet

A few bad apples do not speak for all. I do not support defunding the police. Blue Lives Matter too.

Chupacabra

Mandatory body cams recording at all times are a good way to weed out the bad cops from the good ones. I'm certain there are more good ones. The problems arise when those in charge are able to delete or change data. Look at what the leadership in FBI pulled recently if you don't believe me.

Doc Samson

@Con - Heh, good, valid, and balanced points!

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