Outrage over an officer-involved death in Minnesota has reached Madisonville and the desk of the city’s police chief.
“The event that took place in Minneapolis is appalling,” Chris Taylor wrote in a statement to The Messenger Friday afternoon.
Taylor praised Madisonville demonstrators rallying down the street from his office, building toward a march downtown tonight.
“We all saw that video and the people quite angry, so we used our rights to speak up,” protester Matthew Orange said Friday.
Social media coordinator Cody Lander said about 100 people attended a quickly organized demonstration Thursday night outside the old Hopkins County Courthouse. Another one was scheduled for Friday evening.
“We’re a group of people wanting to do something,” Lander said, after the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis Monday.
Madisonville Police knew about Thursday’s protest, which was multicultural and peaceful. Taylor called it a “vigil” for Floyd.
“The vigil that took place (Thursday) night is an example of the basis in which this country was founded,” Taylor wrote. “The peacefulness of the vigil, I believe, is partly due to the relationship the Madisonville Police Department has with our community.”
The African-American Coalition of Hopkins County announced its own rally for Floyd Friday. The “We Can’t Breathe” protest will occur Monday at 6 p.m. at Festus Claybon Park, and is named for the last words Floyd said as a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.
“We want to show some solidarity and take a stand against police brutality anywhere in the country,” coalition president Bill McReynolds said.
But McReynolds added that brutality by law officers is not a problem in Hopkins County.
“We meet with law enforcement about this time every year,” he said, to make sure things are peaceful while young people are on summer vacation.
Taylor agreed in his statement. “We have strived to develop relationships with all facets of the residents of Madisonville,” Taylor said in his statement.
McReynolds said he’s planning a “nice, professional rally” Monday. He thought about inviting local officials, but decided against it.
“We don’t want to trigger anything,” he said.
Organizers of tonight’s four-block sidewalk march are concerned that opponents of their cause might try to do exactly that.
“We are not concerned with people who are passionate for our cause,” said Nikki Bowman, who’s working with Rebecca Ellis on the march. “We’re concerned about people against our cause, that they not come and make trouble.”
Lander recalled a similar vigil occurred in Madisonville in August 2017, after a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia ended with one person run over by a car and killed.
Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson also spoke out regarding the death of Floyd.
“Wrong is wrong. It makes us angry, also,” Sanderson wrote Wednesday night on his personal Facebook page,
Major Charles Young, who trains deputies under Sanderson, said there’s a lot wrong with what happened in the video of Floyd’s death.
“That’s something you can do to gain quick compliance while you apply handcuffs,” Young said of the knee on Floyd’s neck. “Then you bring them up and put them in the vehicle.”
Young added if a suspect complains about not being able to breathe, deputies are trained to call an ambulance right away.
“You either set them up or turn them to the side so they can breathe,” Young said. “You want to err on the side of caution.”