Demonstrations are planned in Connecticut today to call for justice in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after pleading for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for several minutes.
People organizing the local protests and demonstrations say they want to come together in a safe way to express themselves and ride for justice, equality and unity.
The YWCA held a symbolic funeral procession this morning to eulogize Floyd and it will included a hearse with an empty casket.
Rev. Dr. Alvan Johnson, of Bethel AME Church in Bloomfield, said we have to redefine what it means to be an American.
"All Americans are not white. They are not all black. We're all Americans and then entitled to all everything that country has to offer," he said.
The procession began at the Hopewell Baptist Church in Windsor at 10:30 a.m. and traveled to Hartford, ending at the state capitol.
Many people gathered and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin was kneeling.
A protest will be held in Danbury. It will start at the Danbury Library at noon and go by City Hall, along New Street, around the police station and back.
On Tuesday, protesters across the state carried signs saying, "Listen. Learn. Change," others that said, "You cannot teach black children and be silent about the injustices against them," and more reading "Black Lives Matter" and "Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere."
The demonstrations are in response to the death of 46-year-old Floyd. Video that showed him begging for air as a police officer was seen kneeling on his neck has sparked outrage and protests across the country, and that sentiment of outrage has been shared at rallies and protests that have been held in Connecticut in recent days.
While some protests in other states have turned violent, the Connecticut demonstrations have been largely peaceful and leaders are hoping they can remain that way while sparking important conversations about racism.
Many people attending the gatherings in Connecticut have expressed that black mothers fear for the safety of their children, and that enough is enough. They say this is a tipping point for change and a better future for everyone.
On Tuesday, a Black Lives Matter protest and peaceful sit-in were held in Fairfield, a peaceful protest was held in Hartford, people gathered in New Britain for a unity ride and protesters gathered for a peaceful rally at West Hartford Town Hall.
Rallies Across CT Call for Justice After Death of George Floyd
President Donald Trump said Monday that he recommended that governors deploy the National Guard, but Gov. Ned Lamont said officials in Connecticut have been reaching out to the community to work through “the meaning of George Floyd’s life and sudden death together and what that means.”
State Officials Respond:
Lamont said Tuesday that the majority of demonstrations in Connecticut continue to be peaceful and that he did not see a need for a curfew in the state at present.
"We're trying to do this the Connecticut way, and so far, no arrests last night, no looting," he said.
The governor said he was hoping to keep the Connecticut National Guard focused on COVID-19 related work and did not yet see a need to call them in to keep the peace, praising local and state police departments for how they are managing public safety during the protests.
When asked what his administration would do to meet protester concerns, the governor said he thinks police accountability and diversity in police and leadership are essential. He did not describe any plans for specific legislation, but said he was open to discussing some kind of police reform legislation, which has been a focus of the ACLU. He also said he was open to looking at options for outside review boards to oversee police use of force cases.
Col. Stavros Mellekas of the Connecticut State Police said his department focuses on a philosophy of working with the community, and that their focus is to maintain peace.
"All our troopers are human beings, they have a heart, use common sense and decency," Mellekas said.
New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes, who spoke at the governor's media availability Tuesday, said his department and others in the state are focusing on working with community leaders they already have long-standing relationships with to understand and work with protesters, and they are also reaching out to youth groups and protest organizers to see what can be done together.
"Many of the protesters are young people are they're looking for a different type of change. They're looking to be heard," Reyes said.
He also noted that law enforcement has been monitoring social media and trying to identify agitators who are trying to undermine protesters' messages. He said the agitators are not local protesters and do not represent the local communities.
"Much of the concern we're getting from our community - they're not happy that people are coming into our communities," Reyes said.
Police Departments Respond:
CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE
Following is the full statement from Connecticut State Police.
“A week ago today, a death occurred in Minneapolis. We in law enforcement are not unfamiliar with death, we see it often in many different forms; but the death of George Floyd was different. The indefensible circumstances of this act were carried out in broad daylight, in the middle of a public street by an individual wearing a badge. This individual swore an oath to protect the members of his community, and failed that most basic duty. It was very apparent that this individual used completely unnecessary, unjustifiable force against someone in handcuffs. In that moment, communities were shattered. This individual does not represent police officers.
"We extend our sincere condolences to those who knew and loved George Floyd.
"To say we condemn this behavior is accurate, but still, the word “condemn” doesn’t begin to come close to what we’re feeling.We saw what you saw. We watched in disbelief as that individual calling himself a police officer kept his knee on the neck of a human being for almost nine minutes. Why? We’re not trained to do this in our police academies. There was no immediate threat. Those level, but on a basic human level.
"We are sad, we are angry and we are disgusted. Sad for George Floyd, his family, friends and the people of Minneapolis. We’re sad for those minority communities whose distrust in us police officers will only grow deeper because of this. Sad for the hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers who go to work every day and do the right thing, but will now be viewed in the same light as those former officers who evidently betrayed their oath on that Minneapolis street. The damage done from this is immeasurable and will ripple throughout our country, including our Connecticut communities.
"We’re disgusted that anyone wearing a police uniform would do what we all saw in that video. We’re angry that the actions of a few will affect all of us. If you wear a badge and aren’t appalled by that what you saw, please turn it in and find a new profession; we don’t need you. For the sake of the community, for the sake of good law enforcement officers everywhere and for the sake of our country, enough is enough.
"To our community, please know that we are more than a uniform, we are ordinary people and we stand with you. We anticipate and welcome difficult conversations that will result in progressive changes. Our commitment to public safety remains the same. We will continue to respond to calls for help and keep our streets safe. We will continue to safeguard lives and property in our communities. We will also continue to respect the rights of peaceful protesters and will continue to ensure their safety as we did over the weekend.
"Please look out for each other, acknowledge the pain being felt and stay safe."
Fairfield Police and clergy issued a statement over the weekend, condemning what happened in Minneapolis.
"As a department and as law enforcement officers who take pride in maintaining the utmost professionalism and dignity in serving our community, we condemn the actions taken by the members of the Minneapolis Police Department that had any part in the tragic death of George Floyd," Chief Christopher Lyddy said in a . "Our task as police officers is to protect and preserve lives at all costs. That sacred trust that the community has placed in us has been broken in Minneapolis and the repercussions and ramifications will have a ripple effect across the country. The department stands alongside local clergy members in the decrying of this senseless and serious injustice that has taken place," the statement said.
Glastonbury's police chief Marshall Porter released a statement on Facebook Tuesday:
"The last few months have been difficult for all of us. The fear, sickness, death, and economic loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has left us longing for a return to some level of normalcy and healing. Throughout it all, the men and women of the Glastonbury Police Department have been here for you and you for us, and the Glastonbury Community has remained strong. Now, as scenes of violence and chaos unfold across our nation over the horrific and senseless death of Mr. Floyd, it is critically important that we come together as a community. We have all seen the video. It is disturbing, disgusting, and unfathomable that someone representing our profession could do this and that others could stand by, failing to intervene. There is no way to justify what happened here, and we are all outraged. Like you, our staff are experiencing a range of emotions: shock, anger, fear, pain, embarrassment. The men and women of the Glastonbury Police Department took an oath of office, to protect and respect everyone. EVERYONE! And we honor that oath, and believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We would not tolerate violations of this oath within our own agency, and we will not excuse others who violate it. We have a difficult road ahead, but the men and women of the Glastonbury Police Department will remain with you through it all. Please stay safe and healthy."
Butch Hyatt, the deputy chief of police in Guilford released the following statement:
The Guilford Police Department stands united in outrage with our community, the nation, and law enforcement agencies throughout the state, region, and country in regard to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. We have all seen the video. Officers like these men have no place in any police department and this echoes the feelings of police chiefs throughout our state. The president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, Keith Mello, said in a statement last week, “Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, this is the foundation of our profession. Any violation of these core tenants is inexcusable.”
The abhorrent actions of these officers were not representative of the multitude of good and caring police in this community and this country who work hard day in and day out to create and maintain trust, confidence and an open line of communication within their communities in order to best serve and protect everyone, and I emphasize, everyone. Moving forward, it will be the responsibility of the Guilford Police Department and all police departments to continue to work to repair relations between the police and their communities, that have been fractured by the appalling behavior of these men.
To the people that live, work and travel to and through the Guilford community, know that the officers and the department are committed to your safety and security and will continue to serve with the honor, integrity and professionalism that you have come to expect and so rightfully deserve.
Hamden police released the following statement:
On May 25th we all witnessed the horrifying mistreatment and subsequent death of Mr. George Floyd, at the hands of members of the Minneapolis Police Department. What is equally disturbing are the inactions of the other officers, that stood by and watched. Their lack of intervention is reprehensible. The atrocity committed by the officers involved, has been instrumental in eroding the trust that we as police officers have attempted to build within our communities.
We understand that we can and must do better. With the assistance from the communities we represent, we must pledge to continue to train and educate ourselves to be the best that we can be. This endeavor will be a continuous work in progress. Of utmost importance, we will focus on the word EMPATHY. Our success and relationship with our community greatly depends on the empathy that we have for one another.
On June 2nd the Hamden Police Department was thankful to participate in a unity march that was organized by the Abdul-Majid Karim Hasan Islamic Center. The march provided members of the department with an opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversation with members of our community. It is our hope that we can attempt to build renewed trust from this first positive step.
The men and women of the Hamden Police Department would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. George Floyd.
Protesters demonstrated in Hartford on Monday and police released a statement on Tuesday;
Yesterday, hundreds of protesters came to the city and out of their homes to protest the tragic death of George Floyd who was killed a week ago today in Minneapolis. As a city and as a law enforcement agency, we share in the disgust, anger, and sadness that people all over the world are feeling. Incidents such as the death of George Floyd by the hands of a police officer erode the trust and relationships that we as a police department work at strengthening each and every day.
"Hundreds marched throughout our great city today holding signs and chanting. We heard you. We stood alongside you. We marched with you. Behind our masks, we chanted with you. Yesterday, the City of Hartford showed that we stand with you in protest to police brutality. In stark contrast to many other communities around the country, the protests in Hartford so far have been peaceful, ending with zero arrests, and we are grateful and proud of our city and the community we serve."
On Tuesday, police officers knelt with peaceful protesters calling for justice for George Floyd.
In Hartford Monday, protesters gathered in front of Hartford Police Department headquarters before marching onto I-84 near exit 49, chanting "Black Lives Matter," "no justice, no peace," and "George Floyd."
The hundreds gathered blocked both sides of the highway. An NBC Connecticut crew on scene reported some people stopped their cars and got out to join the protesters. Connecticut State Troopers could be seen standing arm in arm with protesters, some even kneeling alongside them
Norwich police released a statement Tuesday on the death of George Floyd. The full text is below:
"We have all seen the videos from Minneapolis where George Floyd has lost his life during an encounter with the police. These images are beyond disturbing and cast a stain over the law enforcement profession and the dedicated men and women who strive to protect and serve their communities with honor. As Law Enforcement Officers we recognize that the behavior in these videos reflect failures in police tactics, judgement and training.
Of equal concern is the lack of intervention by other officers on the scene. We are reminded that we are leaders in our communities, especially during a time of crisis. Our oath and our ethics require us to act whenever we are witnessing an unjust act, even by another police officer.
Unfortunately these actions in Minnesota erode the layers of trust, confidence and goodwill that we have built within our community.
Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect; this is the foundation of our profession. Any violation of these core tenets is inexcusable. All of our Officers here at the Norwich Police Department are sickened and appalled at the actions and inactions of those Officers in Minneapolis. George Floyd’s death could have and should have been prevented. We as a Department are as angry as the community. The four Minneapolis Officers were wearing the same badges, uniforms, and took the same Oath to protect each and every human in our communities. Those Officers tarnished our honorable profession and what our men and women strive for on a daily basis.
We will, as a Department, stand by the Floyd family and remain true to the following Oath of Honor.
Norwich Police Department Oath of Honor
I do solemnly swear that I will always support and uphold the Constitutions, Laws, and Statutes of the United States of America and the State of Connecticut; the Charter and the Ordinances of the City of NORWICH; and the Policies, Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the NORWICH Police Department.
On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself, and others, accountable for our actions. Furthermore, I pledge that I will discharge the powers and duties of my position to the best of my knowledge and ability, so help me God."
Stratford Police Chief Joseph McNeil issued the following statement:
What happened to George Floyd in Minnesota was a horrific crime and a breach of trust by law enforcement. The Stratford Police Department stands as part of our community and work tirelessly for the success of our citizens.
To help ensure the success of our youth, our officers continue to improve our outreach programs such as PAL, Police Engagement Program, Explorers and Mentoring.
The Officers of the Stratford Police Department remain dedicated to our community. We stand with the citizens of Stratford and must remain united.
Westport police released the following statement.
Over the last several days the town of Westport has been the site of demonstrations in response to recent tragic events in our country. The men and women of this department are sincerely grateful that to date these have been peaceful and constructive gatherings. To the public we serve, we offer a sincere thank you for your continued engagement in your community and your commitment to making our world a better place for us all. In that goal, we have and will always continue to proudly stand with you.
Sadly, this has not been the case throughout this country, where violent acts and destruction instead has become on all too common sight in many of our neighborhoods. The Westport Police Department will always support, and work diligently to protect, the First Amendment rights of our citizens and visitors alike. As we anticipate additional future demonstrations to happen here in and our neighboring communities, we ask that you please do your part to help us ensure the safety and voice of all those in attendance. There is no greater instrument of peace than a continued dialogue, do not let your message be lost in violence.
Windsor police released a statement calling what happened in Minneapolis "disturbing and sickening." Following is the full statement;