Black Lives Matter gains momentum locally

Jeff Guy
A woman holds a sign at the Black Lives Matter protest in Winfield.

WELLINGTON–Recorded on smartphones and shared on social media, it was an image that sickened Americans. For eight minutes, 46 seconds, a white Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer knelt on the neck of a subdued and visibly terrified George Floyd, an African American man who died at the scene.

“It was so heart wrenching,” Amanda Meads, of Winfield said of the video. “I cried so much.”

Last weekend, around 25 people participated in a Black Lives Matter protest in Winfield. Meads, who organized the protest, would have liked a larger turn-out, but she was happy the event went peacefully and she was elated by the supportive gestures from people in the community.

Meades plans to hold another protest in Winfield this Friday.

One of the people who visited briefly with the protesters was Winfield Police Chief Robbie DeLong, off work for the day and wearing civilian clothes. DeLong told Meads he supported what she and the others were doing. While Meads maintained good relations with the police and received their verbal support, she wasn’t able to persuade them to do what she most wanted - join the BLM protest.

While many passers-by expressed support for the event, a few were hostile. Two white men in a Camaro passed by, hollering, “We should kill more of them.” Somebody at the event took a picture of the car’s license plate and turned it into police. The car was from Sedgewick County.

Meads, who is white, said only two of her black friends attended the event. Most stayed away out of fear that there would be violence.

“I don’t agree with everything getting burned down but at the same time I understand where it came from,” Meads said. “People are angry. They are hurt.”

Meads said if people had not rioted in Minneapolis, the police officer accused in Floyd’s death, would have never been fired, arrested or charged.

Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Protesters say the charges are not harsh enough.

“I really and truly don’t think he’ll be convicted because he’s gonna have his brothers, meaning his squad, behind him 110%,” Barnes said.

Meads said things will “get bad” if Chauvin is not convicted.

“I’m saying that as a fact, not as a threat,” Meads said. “People are gonna be outraged.”

Tabatha Rosproy, a preschool teacher at the Winfield Early Learning Center, joined the BLM event in Winfield. She said she has participated in several other protests over the years.

"We need to teach children to love and respect each other regardless of creed, color or religion,“ she said. ”We hope the love and acceptance will begin at such an early age that when they are confronted with racist ideals they’ll be able to remember those foundational components that we’re all human, that we’re all worthy of love and acceptance.“