8:46 of Silence, A Parable of a Neighbor, and ‘Casper Strong’ Fight Racism
Eight minutes, 46 seconds.
"That is an awful long time," Casper Police Chief Keith Mcpheeters told a large crowd gathered for a vigil in front of Hall of Justice on Friday.
"I am here to tell you that my officers are aware of that," McPheeters said at the event organized by the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Eight minutes and 46 is the time George Floyd on May 25 was pinned to the pavement in
Minneapolis where officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck as he said "I can't breathe" 16 times and called for his mother.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and the three other officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The video of the nearly nine last minutes of Floyd's life went viral and inspired protests worldwide, ignited serious discussions about race, and exposed a historic animosity between law enforcement and people of color.
"Police officers watched that same video; they watched it with disgust, with abhorrence, with shame," McPheeters said. "For what we saw was the absolute lack of any concept of the sanctity, the sacredness of human life."
The vigil commenced at 6 p.m. with 8 minutes 46 seconds of silence at the parking lot at Midwest Avenue and David Street, and afterwards the huge crowd walked north to the Hall of Justice.
McPheeters said a number of officers wanted to join the vigil, but he had to assign them to block the streets and make sure the crowd stayed safe. The number of armed people were far fewer than the noon demonstration on Wednesday.
He also did something that public officials often duck: recount a teaching of Jesus.
In biblical times in the Middle East, McPheeters said the Samaritans were related to the Israelites. Samaritans looked like other people in the area and suffered under the same Roman occupation, but were scorned by the Jews. In the Gospel of Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus who is a neighbor. Jesus tells a parable about a man who was stripped, beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest and Levite walk by and ignore him. A loathed Samaritan helps the man, takes him to an inn and pays his expenses. Jesus turns the question back to the lawyer and asks who was the neighbor. The lawyer responds "the one who had mercy on him." To which Jesus replies, "Go and do likewise."
McPheeters said, "Jesus Christ showed us the way how to treat our neighbors," and asked those at the vigil to work with the police department for long-lasting change.
Other speakers echoed that same message.
Teacher Shawn Wiggins, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Stay Blessed," complimented the peaceful protest and said some of the officers at the vigil were students in his sixth grade class, and everybody still needs education.
"The time is now to have those uncomfortable conversations," Wiggins said.
Meeshla Bovee, 15, urged the vigil participants to learn how to listen, understand where others are coming from, stop name-calling, and post stories about their experiences --both residents and law enforcement officers.
"If you're not angry, you're not paying attention," she said.
Mariah Bovee said this was the largest civil rights movement in a generation and wanted changes so Wyoming would not be in the next headline about police brutality.
A step toward that end would be the creation of a citizens and law enforcement coalition, Bovee said. Officers and especially lawmakers must be held accountable, she said.
Keisha Simmons said George Floyd's killing was nothing new to black people because they live in a system founded on racism and division hundreds of years old.
To counter that, personal change comes first, Simmons said. "Hold ourselves accountable for our own actions, clear our hearts of biases and past hurts, hold officers accountable on their oaths...."
She noted two of her favorite words in the Pledge of Allegiance: "Indivisible" and "Liberty."
"Right now, we shall unite as one nation under God with liberty and justice for all," Simmons said.
She asked the crowd to observe another moment of silence to resolve to be the start of continuous change.
After that, Simmons ended her remarks with, "We are Casper strong."
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