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'We're stronger together': Durham protest decries George Floyd's death, police brutality

<p>A crowd protests George Floyd's death and police brutality outside the Durham Police Department headquarters Saturday.</p>

A crowd protests George Floyd's death and police brutality outside the Durham Police Department headquarters Saturday.

Protesters gathered in Durham Saturday, joining the tide of demonstrations that has washed over the United States in recent days after the death of George Floyd. 

Pausing outside the Durham Police Department headquarters, a crowd chanted and waved signs under a hot late-afternoon sun. They shouted the name of Floyd, who died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, and whose death sparked demonstrations in Minneapolis that have spread to cities across the nation. 

But the protesters’ anger went beyond Floyd’s death. In speeches and chants, they decried racism and police brutality. “Defund the police,” a sign read. “Are me and my family next?” another asked.

“I don’t know about y’all, but I am tired,” Durham resident Brittany Scott said in a speech. She singled out those who have not taken action, asking, “Where were you when it was time to show up?”

The protesters chanted, “We shall overcome,” and “No justice, no peace,” and “Black lives matter.” They shouted, “McDougald Terrace matters,” a reference to the January evacuation of hundreds of residents from a Durham Housing Authority property.

At one point, in a moment of calm solidarity amid the anger, they sang Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”

Travis Jones, who teaches history in Greensboro, told The Chronicle that a student invited him to the event. He said he came to “watch us be productive with our anger.” 

“I’m 30 years old, man,” he said. “Thirty years is a lot. When you take my 30 years, and you take my dad’s 55 years, and you take his dad’s 82 years, you realize that there’s some trauma that’s been passed down, and I want it to end with my generation.”

The protest, which lasted into the night, remained peaceful, without the violent confrontations between police and protesters that have taken place in other cities. Police officers were present in their cars to block traffic on the streets where the demonstration was taking place.

In a statement emailed to The Chronicle, Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis wrote that DPD’s approach to the event was “one of understanding.”

“The protests in Durham Saturday were peaceful, the protestors were respectful and we as a department respected their voice,” Davis wrote. “We hear them, we know they are upset, I’m upset too! Anyone with a heart watching the video of George Floyd’s tragic encounter with police should be outraged, and feel some level of hurt.” 

Still, the specter of violent crackdowns hung over the crowd Saturday.

“If they pull up with riot gear, if they come closer, I need everybody to remember we’re stronger together. You may be scared by yourself, but we’re stronger together,” Jones said in a speech. “…Today, we ain’t moving.” 

Moving away from the police department building, the protesters walked down Main Street to the intersection with Chapel Hill Street. As the demonstration continued, Jefe Lubiano and his son watched from the edge of the crowd. 

Lubiano said he was there to be a part of the movement in a peaceful way. 

“This is a very important time to try and demonstrate in a positive way, because there’s a lot going on in this country right now, and it seems like people are very pressurized, and I think our communities are very sensitive to something becoming explosive,” he said. 

He also said he was thinking about his son. Similarly, Scott told The Chronicle she was there for her daughter. 

“She deserves to have her father. She deserves not to live in fear,” she said. 

She spoke to that message in her speech. 

“You listen to me,” she said to the crowd, her voice rising. “You will not have my daughter. You will not have my daughter’s father. You will not have my friends. You will not have my future sons, my uncles, my grandfathers. None of them. You will not have them.”

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