More than 100 march in Cedar City to protest George Floyd’s death

CEDAR CITY — More than 100 people gathered and marched in downtown Cedar City Sunday afternoon to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on Memorial Day and to advocate for positive change.

During the two-hour event, participants walked through downtown streets, including a few blocks up and down Main Street, waving signs with phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and shouting chants such as “no justice, no peace” and “say his name: George Floyd.”

Another oft-repeated chant was “I can’t breathe,” a phrase uttered repeatedly by Floyd during his final minutes as arresting police officers held him down, including one who applied his knee to his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds according to a video taken by a bystander.

Twice during their march on Sunday, the crowd of protesters in Cedar City knelt in silence for that same span of time.

Sign-carrying marchers kneel in silence as they protest death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of police, Cedar City, Utah, May 31, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“The man could not breathe,” said event organizer Sage Ducote, a recent graduate of Southern Utah University, in reference to Floyd’s death. “That is horrible, and that can’t be allowed to happen, especially when other police officers are standing there watching.”

Ducote said he spearheaded Cedar City’s event, along with the help of David Nguyen and a few other close friends after seeing other protests in recent days take a violent turn. 

“Obviously, you see what’s going on in cities around the country, and I think it’s bringing a really negative narrative to the message that’s trying to be conveyed,” Ducote said. “I don’t think the barbarism that’s taking place is an acceptable way to convey the message, and I don’t want it to invalidate the message.”

“I wanted to just have people gather today, make sure everyone knows it’s peaceful, make sure the police know it’ll be peaceful,” he added. “We did that and it was successful.”

Most of the honking and waving from passing drivers appeared to be supportive in nature, save for a couple of pickup trucks that kept driving by loudly, as if to disrupt the procession. 

“I don’t think it could have gone better,” Ducote said at the event’s conclusion. “I mean, yesterday when I was trying to plan it, I had maybe four or five people tell me for sure they would come. And then this morning, it just started blowing up.” 

Thanks to some timely social media posts, several dozen people showed up for the event, which started just after 3 p.m. Between 120 and 150 people were estimated to have participated in at least part of the march.

Along the way, officers from multiple local law enforcement agencies were on hand to help direct traffic and make sure the marchers could get across the streets safely.

Iron County Sheriff Ken Carpenter directs traffic as protesters cross Main Street, Cedar City, Utah, May 31, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“The protest went off without a hitch,” Iron County Commissioner Mike Bleak wrote in a Facebook post Sunday night. “I appreciated the people involved for exercising their First Amendment right, and doing it peacefully.”

Bleak, also a sworn police officer who wore his Cedar City Police Department uniform during the event, went on to thank the various agencies who coordinated and helped ensure the event went smoothly.

SUU President Scott Wyatt, who was asked by Ducote to say a few words at the beginning of the march, expressed his appreciation to those in attendance.

“George Floyd was not the first person who died from hate and racism, but one day we’re going to be able to say who the last person was, because we have a hope that this will end,” Wyatt told the crowd.

Continued Wyatt: 

The core of a university is free speech, public expression, the right to peaceful protest and assembly. And indeed, all good things have happened as a result of people asking questions and demanding answers. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’ And as we show love, we can overcome all the hate in the world. Someday. We just have to keep pushing. 

Schvalla Rivera, SUU’s assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion, also expressed her appreciation, saying she was also honored to be part of the event.

“I was very proud of our students, faculty, staff, and community, community members who came out today,” she said. “It was beautiful to be a part of it. I was so happy that students and alumni got together to help organize people in town and on campus. It’s very meaningful, especially in Utah and places where the minority populations are so small, that people get together and support each other. I think that it goes a long way to help make things better. Silence is not helpful. So it’s very important that everyone who believes in what’s right, stand up.”

Sign-carrying marchers walk the streets to protest death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of police, Cedar City, Utah, May 31, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Martin Luther King said it’s always the right time to do the right thing,” Rivera added. “And I think that that’s what we should do. It’s always the right time. It’s not always going to be comfortable. It’s not always going to be convenient, but when something’s the right thing to do and we’re acting in love, it’s always the right time to do it.”

Rivera said one of the key aspects of racism is a “loss of humanity, when people aren’t able to see or value the lives of other people.”

“A lot of times people don’t understand that there’s so many repercussions to racism,” she said. “And so, when we are able to gather and recognize and see the humanity in each other and value each other, that’s what’s going to help change things.”

Rivera said she hopes Sunday’s march is not just a one-time event.

“I hope that this sparks conversations and more understanding and community involvement,” she said, adding, “Get out and vote. I don’t care what party you vote, but, you know, get people in office who are going to work for your community.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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