MOREHEAD CITY — Protests made their way Sunday to the Crystal Coast, with a small group of demonstrators gathering in downtown Morehead City calling for justice and an end to police brutality across the nation.
“It’s a little town, but we can speak big,” Morehead City resident Damar Small said.
Mr. Small organized a gathering at 3 p.m. that reached 20-25 people at its height during the afternoon hours on the railroad tracks between 6th and 7th streets.
As the sun set, there were about a dozen protesters holding signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “United We Stand,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and “Fix The Problem, Don’t Be The Problem.”
Police and demonstrators clashed in dozens of cities across the country over the weekend in response to the death of George Floyd.
Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, pleaded that he couldn’t breathe May 25 as video showed a white Minneapolis, Minn., police officer pressing his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck for seven minutes as he laid facedown and handcuffed on the pavement.
The now-former police officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death.
Mr. Chauvin’s arrest came after demonstrators spilled into Minneapolis streets last week calling for justice in the latest high-profile killing of a black man by law enforcement.
Three other officers were present during the murder but have not been charged, though, like Mr. Chauvin, they have been fired.
In the days since Mr. Floyd’s death, demonstrators have taken up the call in a slew of cities across America, including Saturday, when demonstrations escalated in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Ga., Raleigh and more.
“I was watching the stuff last night and it got to me,” Mr. Small said Sunday at the Morehead City demonstration. “I never went to sleep. It kind of got to me, the rioting and looting.”
Violence and vandalism caused at least 40 cities to impose curfews Sunday and officials activated National Guard members in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
Mr. Small said he didn’t want his protest to look anything like those in larger cities.
“We’re going to be out here on a peaceful vibe,” he said. “I don’t have to loot, I don’t have to riot. I don’t have to do any of that. I can stand here and peacefully protest.”
Mr. Small, wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt, called a few friends and put the word out on Facebook about the protest. The response had been largely positive – he estimated 75% of passersby had shown their support.
“You have people who hang out the window and yell support, then you have people who flip you off,” he said. “Either way, we take it as good. We’re getting your attention.”
A few protestors held signs encouraging those driving by to honk and plenty did. The highlight of Mr. Small’s day came before sunset as a woman on a motorcycle threw something in the group’s direction.
“I thought she was insulting us,” he said. “But I looked down, saw the fist on a T-shirt. It was this shirt. It made my day.”
Mr. Floyd’s death, and others like it such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 2014, had Mr. Small worried people are losing trust in police.
“As a little town, people think stuff like that doesn’t go on around here,” he said. “But it does. I’ve been in situations where I was profiled. We need to get everybody on the same page, black and white. I want to see some police come out here and stand with us.”
His protest wasn’t a one-day affair. Mr. Small said he plans on coming back out Monday and in the days to follow.
“I’ve never done anything like this, but I feel like I need to be a leader,” he said. “I have a drive to do it. I’ll be out here as long as I need to.”