WINCHESTER — “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
The chant was repeated over and over Sunday night in downtown Winchester, where hundreds of people assembled to protest the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died while in police custody. Floyd was handcuffed and lying on the street while a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin, who reportedly ignored Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe,” has been charged with murder.
“This has to be the beginning of a new era,” Samuel Tanner, of Winchester, told as many as 500 people who met on the south end of the Loudoun Street Mall to protest Floyd’s death. “It needs to be said. People need to hear it.”
Chants of “I can’t breathe” continued for nearly as long as Floyd was pinned to the ground. Protesters, including white, black, Hispanic and Asian people, also chanted “I want justice” and “George Floyd.”
As of 7:30 p.m., with the protestors marching around the downtown area, police reported no incidents of violence.
Winchester Police Chief John E. Piper said protest organizers did not obtain a permit from the city, but there are stipulations for spontaneous protests in City Code, so he decided to allow the event to proceed.
Members of the Winchester Police Department and Winchester Sheriff’s Office kept a low profile and allowed the protestors to march, speak and wave signs. Prior to the event, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms led a bomb-sniffing dog across the grounds of the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum, where participants initially assembled.
For more on this story, see Tuesday’s edition of The Winchester Star.