“No justice. No peace.”
It’s a chant being heard around the world right now, including in the city of Renton, at a Monday protest for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ella Colwell helped organize the event with her brother. She said she wanted to kick-start organizing in Renton to demand justice for George Floyd and hopes more people, especially young people feeling helpless and people of color, will continue to lead protests in the city.
Protesters led chants, cheered as cars honked while passing by, and even laid on the ground face down for nine minutes — about the amount of time the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck as he was on the ground, while three other police officers did not intervene. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Charges are anticipated for the other officers involved.
The death sparked protests across the U.S. and internationally.
“Tonight… start convincing friends and family who don’t want to come out, to come out and stand by us,” one protester told the crowd in Renton. “(Or) nothing is going to change.”
While protesters were clearly visible in front of Renton City Hall from 3 to 7 p.m. June 1, Renton police officers remained mostly out of sight from the street, around a corner, occasionally driving by. It kept the protest peaceful, and having police out of sight removed the tension that’s been at other events, Colwell said, mentioning large-scale protests where police response has been criticized and questioned, including in Seattle.
The majority of the crowd in Renton were young people. A few were still wearing their cap and gown from an earlier drive-through graduation ceremony at Renton High School. The protest reminded Colwell what the future of America looks like, and she said she hopes young people who can’t yet vote will remember there are other ways to organize and create change.
She said for those who want to get involved, they should do their own research to understand what the Black Lives Matter movement is about. She has also been encouraging people to sign as many petitions as they can, including texting “Floyd” to 55156, and donating to local bail relief funds.
During the protest, Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone issued a statement that police have gathered increased resources. The mayor said residents could expect an increased police presence in the city for the next few days.
In the statement, the mayor denounced George Floyd’s death and welcomed future protests, but also stated that “peaceful protests are being drowned out by violent radical elements” and that violence and looting are never condoned by the Renton City Council or Renton police. The safety of first responders is the city’s top priority, he said.
“I also hope that justice is served for Mr. Floyd’s death,” Pavone said. “I am personally committed to do what I can to help stop racism and help our community survive and thrive.”