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Charlottesville group plans protest to highlight demands for racial justice

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A Charlottesville group is organizing a protest at the city police headquarters to highlight justice for black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement, and raise issues with local police harassment, surveillance and militarization.

Cities across the country have seen protests come together organically in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man being detained for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli.

A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, faces a third-degree murder charge in the death, after video shot by bystanders showed Chauvin kneeling on Foster’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as Foster repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” before losing consciousness.

“We can no longer afford to just start the conversation. We have moved past the stages of dialogue. Now is the time for action,” said Zyahna Bryant, one of the organizers of the Charlottesville protest, which is set to begin at 5:30 p.m.

The local protest is a response to the national call to action from the Minneapolis-based Black Visions Collective and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, in solidarity with Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, and family, friends and comrades on the ground in Minnesota.

Organizers will ask everyone who wants to join the protest to practice physical distancing, six feet apart from each other. Masks will be provided for those who do not have one.

Some community members will be gathering to support the protest by car.

There will be a local focus to the protest. Organizers released a list of demands for local justice – that the city, Albemarle County and the state Department of Corrections increase the number of people being released from jail and prison, that all people on work release be immediately set free, that fees for home monitoring be waived indefinitely, that city police end what organizers term the “targeted harassment and surveillance of Black, Brown, and Undocumented folks in our community,” the immediate demilitarization and defunding of the Charlottesville city police, and that Charlottesville City Schools ends its contract with the Charlottesville Police Department.

“The gathering today is emblematic of the fact that our community will protect ourselves,” said Don Gathers, another of the event’s organizers. “These incidents occur with far too much frequency. They’re sickening and maddening, and they must be brought to a swift end. We must usher in a new paradigm. Otherwise, I’m fearful of this country slipping deeper into this rabbit hole, from whence there is no possible return.”

Story by Chris Graham