Three men who have organized a protest scheduled to take place this Friday night in Wilmington’s Tubman-Garrett Park say they met with Governor Carney, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki and Attorney General Kathy Jennings on Wednesday to “better understand each other” and to discuss possible outcomes following the event.
The group established a Facebook event page called We Still Can’t Breathe (March for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor), and while permissions have been turned off, organizers say 1,500 people have indicated that they are “going.”
While Friday night’s protest in Wilmington may have the largest expected turnout, state officials and city mayors from Wilmington to Dover now have their hands full, trying to address multiple planned rallies across the state in a matter of days.
Friday’s protest organizers call for statewide citizen-led community review board for law enforcement
Garrison Davis, who volunteers with a variety of social activist groups, Coby Owens, who is running for Wilmington City Council, and Everett Anderson, a community organizer, are part of a coalition calling for greater police oversight and asking legislators to establish a statewide citizen-led community review board for law enforcement.
They call their group Not Just a Protest – #notjustaprotest.
The men were among a half dozen who met with officials today, and they represent a much larger coalition of people lobbying against police brutality.
Their group is unaffiliated with other groups who are planning other “police brutality” protests across the state in the next few days. Some protests are also popping up organically. One outside of the Louis L. Redding City/C0unty building planned for 1 pm today was canceled due to rain. Another noon-time “vigil” had been planned in Arden today.
At today’s meeting, Garrison says that the politicians voiced concern that Friday’s protest will be “significantly bigger” than last Saturday’s protest in Wilmington.
When we asked whether organizers would consider canceling the protest and try to continue working channels with elected officials, Garrison said interest in the event doesn’t make that feasible.
“We came to the conclusion that the event is bigger than us – so many people know about it that we can’t control who shows up.
Because we organized it, we believe it’s best to be there to help guide it to a safe beginning and conclusion,” he said.
Garrison, a resident of Middletown, says the elected officials also expressed concern about the safety of citizens – both those in attendance at Friday’s planned protest and throughout the city. The protest begins at 6 pm at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, which is located between the train station and Riverfront Center, where Bank’s Seafood Kitchen & Raw Bar Restaurant is located.
A spokesperson for Governor Carney’s office said their office “will certainly work with the organizers to find a constructive and positive role for the Governor. In the immediate term, the Governor’s focus is on making sure the protest is conducted safely and peacefully and is not a repeat of what happened last Saturday night.”
We also reached out to Mayor Purzycki’s office to confirm his impressions of the meeting, but they have not yet gotten back to us.
Following an hour of talks, protesters will walk to the Carvel State Office Building at 820 N. French Street. Garrison said plans for the walk are fluid — he is not sure whether the walk will include Market Street.
Garrison said his group discussed with officials the risk that a few people could mar what is supposed to be a peaceful protest, increasing the potential that things could get out of hand.
He said that one of the officials remarked at today’s meeting, “We don’t want bad actors coming in here. And we don’t know your ability to control the crowd.”
Newly delivered pallets of bricks removed from Riverfront area
The #notjustaprotest group also includes members of other groups who added their names to a letter which they shared with Carney, Purzycki and Jennings today.
The letter was co-signed by Garrison, 26, who says he has worked with the Smart Justice Campaign partnering with the ACLU Delaware and the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and Shyanne Miller, who is identified as a co-coordinator of Delaware for Police Oversight.
“Our mission is to make sure that it’s not just a protest — that we actually have valid policies, come out of this regarding community review boards. They’re not the only answer, but they are a large part of the answer to providing police oversight in our state,” he said.
Garrison said that his group could not predict any outcomes from Friday’s event. But he and the others at today’s meeting said they thought that if elected officials joined them at the rally, that would mitigate chances for the rally to lose control.
“Because Friday’s protest will be much larger than last week’s, we asked them [Carney, Purzycki and Jennings] to join us,” said Garrison. “Kathy Jennings already offered to join us two weeks ago. Mayor Purzycki said he would come if he was invited, and Governor Carney didn’t commit either way,” said Garrison.
Garrison said his group does plan to follow up with a formal letter to Mayor Purzycki inviting him to participate in the protest.
In his own letter to citizens shared today, Mayor Purzycki said that he still stands behind his decision to support Wilmington Chief of Police Robert Tracy’s strategy of restraint on Saturday night while an hour of looting took place.
Mayor Purzycki defends police tactic of restraint during night of looting
“Since last Saturday night’s demonstration and the violence that ensued, I have received many emails either condemning our weak police response to the lawbreaking or congratulating us and our police on the restraint that was shown. In the end, I believe we made the correct choice to exercise restraint.
“Although some businesses took the brunt of the mayhem, most of the damage was relatively limited. No one was injured. The raw anger directed against the police was not enflamed. This is not to excuse the criminal behavior of those who broke the law. There will still be prosecutions. It is right, however, to be respectful of those whose motives were honest and whose hurt was real,” he said.
You can read Mayor Purzycki’s entire letter here.
In a letter delivered to Carney, Purzycki and Jennings, Delaware for Police Oversight said,
A week ago the nation witnessed the murder of an African American man, George Floyd, at the hands of Police Officers in Minneapolis, MN. These types of incidents have become far too commonplace in our society. The assault on law-abiding citizens (primarily people of color), at the hands of the police has been a persistent issue plaguing our nation well past the last decade.
Many of us have sat and watched as the culmination of these attacks has boiled over, resulting in the peaceful protests, riots, and looting which took place over the past weekend, across the nation. Delaware was not exempt from this, as we saw on Saturday when businesses and public places across the state were broken into and destroyed.
This was the language of the unheard.
With no meaningful avenue for change or justice, we cannot be surprised by the actions of our fellow citizens. What we can do however, is work towards something better.
Starting today, DEPO is once again calling on Governor Carney, Attorney General Kathy Jennings, and all other county and municipal executives to work with DEPO and it’s affiliates to establish a statewide Community Review Board, consisting primarily of private citizens, to review law enforcement policies, collect data, and hold police accountable through proper disciplinary actions. We have started this process with a petition, with the specific goals for the Community Review Board as follows:
- Proactively prevent police violence, brutality, and/or use of force in Delaware communities
- Prevent over-policing in majority black, brown, and poor communities
- Create a robust, community informed accountability process for when police violence, brutality, and/or use of force does occur.
- Establish alternatives to police presence in our communities
- Review policing policies and make recommendations for changes
- Provide a level of transparency for the public to police practices, policies, and operations
- Access, analyze and interpret data on policing to make recommendations and for public consumption
- Ensure officers are regularly held to the highest standards, and those who fail to meet that standard are reprimanded appropriately
In addition, the forming these committees we should expect that:
- A majority of the formation committee be private citizens who are included at EVERY step of the process
- The final product and committees consist of a majority of private citizens
- Leadership roles on the final review board only be held by private citizens
- Funding be set aside to guarantee the sustainability of the final oversight committee through stipends for its members
The past weekend has proven, we can no longer sit idle and hope the problem of police brutality and abuse of power goes away. It should be clear that such injustices are not only a hazard to the citizens of our great state, but they pose an economic threat as well. The recovery from this weekend’s has only begun, but by working with community leaders to establish a community review board, the Governor, Attorney General, and local government executives have the ability to ensure it does not happen again.