By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on June 10, 2020
At one point during the event, the roughly 500 people gathered in Manteo on the evening on June 10 remained silent for eight minutes and forty six seconds — the amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck on May 25.
For the crowd gathered on the Manteo COA campus lawn, that time of silence was a powerful reminder of the cost of racism. On a day filled with speakers asking the crowd to reflect on how important it is to change how society thinks of race, how important it is to be a truly inclusive society, those 526 seconds may have been the most powerful message of the day.
Organized by the Dare Minority Coalition (DMC), attendance at the peaceful demonstration was far greater than expected, with children, parents and grandparents gathered together to call attention to the need for change.
“The positiveness of the crowd was what we were going for. But we were expecting around two hundred or three hundred and it was almost twice that many,” said George Carver, executive director of DMC.
Billed as a Moment of Silence for the Victims of Police Violence, the evening included powerful statements from local law enforcement officials supporting the event. Manteo Chief of Police Vance Haskett and Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie spoke, both emphasizing the need for community policing and describing the death of George Floyd as a criminal act.
Doughtie, in his remarks added: “One thing you can be sure of, that it is not the badge you wear that makes you the officer. It is the heart behind this badge.”
The event, though, examined what systemic racism looks like and what can be done to address it. Michelle Lewis, Youth Pastor at Mr. Olivet United Methodist Church, told the story of a brand-new police officer going to an inner-city kindergarten class and asking the children what they knew about the police.
“The first child says, ‘I know the police kill people,’” Lewis said. The officer then turned to several other children who all repeated the same sentiments. “I was that police officer,” Lewis declared. “That was my experience that day. And what it showed me is the work that we all have to do to change what’s going on around the country.”
The organizers said there had been some social media threats against the gathering. But there was no evidence of opposition during the event. For Carver, the absence of trouble was a combination of message and courage.
Reflecting on why the event went so well in spite of online threats he said, “It goes to show that you can’t be disturbed…as long as you’ve got your mind focused and a positive message to deliver.”
DMC president Rashad Daniels, in his opening remarks set the tone for the evening.
“Together we have the power for change,” he said. “It is it now at this moment that we summon the powers to right the wrongs that have happened all throughout history from ancient to more recent times. We must use these powers for the good of all of us, especially the least among us. We must inspire change in the world with hopes that injustice will fail, and justice shall prevail…We will fear the darkness no more.”
The belief in inclusion and the need for change were issues that Carver addressed in thinking about the gathering after the crowds went home.
“The negative vibration that we constantly feel among each other, is actually coming from, not the majority of the people in society,” he said.
“But it’s disruptive,” he added. “And this is a long-term, long-lasting effect and it’s actually passed down from generation to generation.”
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