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Thousands Gather for Candlelight Vigil

City Hall event draws wide-ranging, diverse crowd; ‘Racism is the problem,’ says speaker

Published on Monday, June 1, 2020 | 4:49 am

Following two days of relatively peaceful protest, more than a thousand residents gathered at City Hall for a candlelight vigil Sunday evening to protest the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, as well as others who died at the hands of police.

The diverse crowd of participants, who ranged from young children to seniors, completely filled Centennial Square in front of City Hall. The event was organized by a number of local churches who were led by organizer Barbara Aikens Walker, from First Baptist Church of Pasadena.

A number of speakers rose on the City Hall steps, in front of the packed crowd, to offer their own take on the events.

“The police are not the problem, they are the symptom. Racism is the problem,” Tarek Shawky told the crowd. “Ahmaud Arbury was not killed by the police, but by two private citizens who targeted him because of the color of his skin, and whatever deviant narrative they created in their minds to justify his murder.”

Just before the last speaker, participants were directed to shout and cheer and make as much noise as possible for eight minutes, representing the length of time Minneaspolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck, until he passed out and died. The Square shook with noise, cheers, chants, rage and release. 

Following the vigil, Walker said, “I think it went very well. I was very pleased with the turnout and very pleased with the composition of our group here. We’ve had a lot of people from a lot of different parts of society and they were so engaged with the eight minutes of sound. I think it was amazing, and most people didn’t realize how long eight minutes was, until then. They kept looking at their watches thinking, ‘Oh, surely,’ they thought,  ‘That’s wrong.’”

Speaking on the event’s lasting significance, Reverend Mike Kinman of All Saints Church said adamantly, “We’re going to see what the significance of it is starting tomorrow.” 

Kinman continued, “This was fantastic to have so many people show up and say, ‘No more, we’re standing against this,’ but what matters is, ‘Do we take that fire home? Do we call city council, and do we call the city manager? Do we call the mayor? Do we make them see our budgets as moral documents? Do we take funding that is going to militarizing police forces and putting it into social problems that lift people out of poverty? That’s what we’ll tell them. 

“We have to stay committed to the struggle,” said Kinman, “because unless we do, things aren’t going to change. But if we do, we can turn this whole thing around.”

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