CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Folks showed their support for the a local chapter of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement by taking part in a Juneteenth walk through downtown Charlottesville, organized by local public defenders. The event was mostly peaceful, but ended with a driver hitting a cyclist protecting protesters with his car when demonstrators did not immediately move from an intersection they temporarily blocked.
Below is live-stream video of the event, which is not censored.
Participants gathered for the Walk for Justice in front of the city’s federal courthouse by the intersection of McIntire Road and West Main Street around 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 19. From there, they walked to the marker for enslaved humans in Charlottesville’s historic Court Square, where they held a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
The event was organized by public defenders in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, as part of a national event called “Black Lives Matter to Public Defenders.” Elizabeth Murtagh, one of the organizers and a public defender in both the city and county, says that they see the criminal justice system on a daily basis, and that the reforms protesters are calling for are long overdue.
“We’re in court every day, and we see what the criminal justice system is,” Murtagh explained. “It’s very unfair, and we just felt like we need to lend our voice to it and make people aware of that.”
While many reforms have been proposed, including defunding the police, public defenders organizing the event highlighted several additional policy proposals on fliers passed out at the march. One was to reduce the amount of people being sent to jail by simply removing jail time as a sentencing option for some infractions.
“There’s a lot of cases that can be diverted to people that have are charged with drug offenses, they don’t need to be put in jail,” Murtagh said. “We send way too many people to jail.”
Demonstrators could be heard chanting “no justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” as well as George Floyd’s name as they walked on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall around 5 p.m. They then headed up Market Street, often staying on the sidewalks and continuing to chant, after walking the length of the pedestrian mall.
The walk entered Court Square Park, which contains a statue of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson. Many walked past the monument while chanting, “take it down,” but did not stop in the park.
A portion of bricked road around Court Square was blocked by supporters during a moment of silence, which began a little after 5:20 p.m.
Demonstrators then walked back through the Downtown Mall, and returned to the front lawn area of the federal courthouse to continue to protest.
Participants then blocked much of the intersection of McIntire Road and West Main Street around 5:55 p.m. There, a bicyclist protecting demonstrators from traffic was hit by an aggressive driver after the driver shouted expletives at the marchers and demanded they move out of the way. The driver sped off after striking the cyclist, and protesters moved out of the way a few minutes later to allow traffic to flow again. The cyclist did not appear to suffer significant injuries, and according to other protesters on the scene he is expected to be okay.
The duration of the moment of silence is an homage to Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died while handcuffed and in police custody on May 25. Video footage taken that day suggests an officer rested his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Prosecutors announced Wednesday, June 17, that it was a minute less, but that it would not affect the charges filed against the four police officers.
Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other officers, J. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, have all been charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired. If convicted, they potentially face the same penalty as Chauvin: up to 40 years in prison.
Black Lives Matter Charlottesville also announced Friday afternoon that it plans to hold another rally to defund local police departments on Sunday, June 21. That event is expected to be held at the Freedom of Speech Wall, which is near the Charlottesville Police Department.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.