MATTHEWS – Butler High School alum Camille Harvell admitted to a large crowd gathered June 7 outside of town hall that she did not feel safe seeing Matthews police officers at the George Floyd rally.
“I want you to know that when I see them, all I can think of are the countless number of black men and women that died at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and serve them,” Harvell said.
Video of a Minneapolis police officer’s knee lodged on Floyd’s neck has sparked protests across the country. In addition to Uptown Charlotte, peaceful demonstrations have continued in Ballantyne, SouthPark, Indian Trail and Waxhaw.
Harvell’s remarks followed those made by Matthews Police Chief Clark Pennington, who said his department and the town are also in mourning and in anger of Floyd’s death.
“The men and women who wear this uniform and stand with you in this crowd are just as upset with the actions of those men as you are,” he said. “Remember, nothing upsets a good cop like seeing a bad cop degrade the trust of our community.”
Pennington said the Matthews Police Department is committed to developing a more diverse work force and has increased training in de-escalation and cultural diversity. It has also updated its standards of conduct, requiring officers that see unlawful or unethical behavior to stop it and report it to a supervisor.
The department has updated its use of force policy to clarify that strangleholds and chokeholds are not permitted.
Others speaking at the rally included Mayor John Higdon, Commissioner Larry Whitley and pastors Chuck Wilson, Brook Seaford and Luke Mabry. A few people from the crowd were given the opportunity to speak.
Dr. Robert Rankin had a message for those who respond to the Black Lives Matter movement by saying “all lives matter.”
“How smart would it be to show up to a breast cancer awareness event saying “all cancer matters?” Rankin asked the crowd. “We are not here saying that your life does not matter. What we are saying is that ours are the ones being taken so we need you to focus on that right now.”
Harvell encouraged white people to become allies by continuing to support the Black Lives Matter movement, using their privilege to amplify black voices and listen to their black friends when they share their experiences.