Peaceful protests on Saturday, calls for reform spread across region

Protests and demonstrations demanding justice and social change in the wake of the death of George Floyd remained peaceful Saturday across the Miami Valley.

People gathered in several communities throughout Montgomery County, including downtown Dayton, Trotwood, Huber Heights and Miamisburg. Protests were also held in Xenia and Yellow Springs in Greene County; Springfield in Clark County; and Middletown, Hamilton and Fairfield in Butler County. A group of doctors also were scheduled to demonstrate in Springboro in Warren County on Saturday night.

>> PHOTOS: George Floyd protests continue in Miami Valley

Many of the demonstrations provided residents an opportunity to register to vote and to fill out the U.S. Census. One involved pastors washing the feet of people gathered and praying with police officers.

Nationwide protests have been ignited after a police officer killed Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Ex-Officer Derek Chauvin, who can be seen on a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, faces second-degree murder and other charges, while the other three officers present face charges of aiding and abetting.

In Dayton, a crowd began growing around noon with several people holding signs that said, “Black Lives Matter,” “Everyone vs. Racism,” and “Vote.” Before the group began marching, a nine-minute moment of silence was held to represent the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of George Floyd before he died.

>> DAYTON: Hundreds protest downtown on Saturday

About 300 people then marched through downtown to the Oregon District before returning to Courthouse Square. Dayton police confirmed that no incidents or arrests were reported. At least 25 officers, many on bicycles, were in downtown around the square and could be seen along the path as the crowd marched. But no tensions or confrontations arose like last weekend when officers used tear gas, pepper balls and other tactics to clear crowds.

Frederick Cox III, one of the main speakers, challenged the protesters to do more than just show up, take photos or post on social media about the rally. He encouraged them to think about their actions and about what are they willing to give up so others can gain.

Cox also called for accountability for the current city of Dayton leadership and police department.

“We are out here in a peaceful way, demonstrating solidarity behind the idea that black lives matter,” he said.

Nicole Pentheny and Atalya Pentheny, both from Dayton, left a prayer meeting at St. Luke’s today and weren’t aware the protest was happening. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley stopped them and encouraged them to come rally.

>> IN THEIR WORDS: Why locals protest and what change they want to see

“We just came to stand to justice for all,” Nicole Pentheny said. “We did way back in the ’60s. We see this rising again. We want to make sure that this time and this season, we’re able to stop it and make a change, in love, to a better way.”

Nicole Pentheny said she hopes everyone can listen to one another.

“I hope there are some people who don’t understand what we’re fighting for today will understand and show some empathy,” she said.

>> DAYTON: Dayton-based ministry group hosts foot washing ceremony in wake of protests

Later in the day, Simple Street Ministry gathered with about two dozen people at Courthouse Square and held a foot-washing ceremony. The religious event saw leaders pray that the act would help those carrying burdens feel cleansed.

It was also a nod to the late Fred Rogers, known by his TV name Mr. Rogers, who washed the feet of Officer Clemmons on television during civil unrest in the 1960s.

“We are coming together to love on our city, love on our each other and to be a point of reconciliation,” said Pastor Joel Burton of Simple Street Ministry.

Meanwhile, in Trotwood, several hundred protesters gathered at Madison Park and marched to a parking lot at KMG Pharmacy. The protesters chanted throughout the march and many spoke to the crowd at the conclusion with a bullhorn that was passed person-to-person.

Rob Dejene, who helped promote the event, said, “I believe it is our duty as a thriving black community to stand up for injustices for people that look like us throughout the world. I want to bring more awareness to the plight of police brutality.”

Brittany Rose participated Saturday because she wanted her voice to be heard.

“I just felt like I had to be here, I had to make a stand,” Rose said. “I couldn’t stay home. I had to speak up for justice.”

Steven Champion also came out to the Trotwood event. He said he came out to demand respect.

>> TROTWOOD: People gather to protest death of George Floyd

“We’ve had enough, we want respect. We deserve respect and we must move on as the world moves on. Life changes, generations have changed. We need to show the new generation that this is not the way it’s supposed to be.”

Trotwood Police Chief Erik Wilson said the demonstration remained peaceful throughout and that the protesters’ voices were heard.

“I’ve been blessed that I came into a great situation here with the Trotwood Police Department. Since its inception in ’98, it has shown and always experienced a great working relationship with the community, and what it’s about has been passed down to me from my former bosses, and it’s respect. Respect the community and demand that respect in return. So I believe that’s the foundation for what we show and what we have out here, is that we respect our residents and they respect us.”

>> YELLOW SPRINGS: Demonstrators gather to protest death of George Floyd

About 500 people also rallied and marched in Yellow Springs on Saturday afternoon, protesting racism, police brutality and the deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement. Speakers urged people to vote and to be active to bring change to the United States.

“We have to vote and when we vote we need to vote for lawmakers who will” dismantle white supremacy and racism, said one speaker.

Bomani Moyenda, one of the organizers of the peaceful protests, encouraged people to get involved by joining anti-racist organizations.

>> RELATED:  Amid pandemic, caution urged with protests, crowds

He read a long list of people who have died while in custody or interacting with law enforcement. He followed with a powerful 9 minutes of silence, with the crowd sitting quietly as he described at different moments what George Floyd’s last minutes of life were like as he lay handcuffed on the pavement with a Minneapolis police officers knee on his neck.

“These are evil people we are dealing with,” Moyenda said.

Protesters held up peace signs and fists and chanted as they marched through downtown Yellow Springs.

Organizers chanted to the crowd, “Say his name.” And the crowd responded with “George Floyd.”

“I’m here because I want to stand in solidarity for things that have been happening since before I was born,” Yellow Springs resident Erika Tallet said. “People think that this is just about George Floyd, but we’ve been crying since Emmett Till. I want to stand in solidarity and show people that racism is not alive in 2020.”

>> MIAMISBURG: Dozens gather to protest death of George Floyd

About 100 people also gathered near Riverfront Park in Miamisburg this afternoon. Protesters stood along Linden Avenue near T.J. Chumps and Amy’s Cakes. They chanted “No justice, no peace.” As they walked along the road, they called to police officers to join them in protest.

About 500 protesters also showed up in Huber Heights to hold up signs and chanted along Old Troy Pike near the I-70 interchange.

>> HUBER HEIGHTS: Crowd gathers along Old Troy Pike

The Dayton NAACP registered people to vote. Near the end of the rally, protesters kneeled in silence for roughly nine minutes with fists in the air.

“For all the victims and families who’ve been involved in police brutality, and all of the people who have been killed, we’re just trying to show them that we stand with them, we support them and we’re trying to show that our community is better,” protest organizer Faythe Watson said.

“My family is African American and I shouldn’t have to be worried about my family leaving their house. I shouldn’t have to worry about one day my family’s gonna get shot because they’re black, you know what I mean? So we’re just gonna show everyone that we’re together and bring awareness.”

Staff reporters Sarah Franks, Riley Newton, Ismail Turay Jr., Lynn Hulsey and Micah Karr contributed to this report.

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