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Lakes area demonstrators gather to commemorate George Floyd

Participants knelt and spent nearly nine minutes in contemplative silence to honor the final moments of George Floyd's life.

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Demonstrators kneel in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse lawn Monday, June 8. The peaceful demonstration was organized to honor the memory of George Floyd who was memorialized Monday in Houston, Texas. The group gathered to denounce police brutality, white supremacy and racial violence. Steve Kohls / Brained Dispatch
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Eight minutes and 46 seconds — the moments that marked the coda of George Floyd’s life and the same amount of time demonstrators took for a moment of silence to commemorate Floyd’s death and its seismic effect across the globe.

More than 60 lakes area residents gathered 5 p.m. Monday, June 8, before the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse to peacefully demonstrate, pray and convene a long moment of silence as an act of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and people of color. Occasionally, vehicles passing on Laurel Street honked their horns as a sign of support. Gatherers hoisted banners of racial justice as they listened to speakers, including organizer Amanda Schwarzkopf and the Rev. Leslie Moughty, before everyone knelt and remained silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of contemplation.

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Kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, demonstrators honor the memory of George Floyd who was memorialized Monday in Houston, Texas. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

In her address to the group, Schwarzkopf was unsparing and called for people of all walks of life — particularly white people — to engage in difficult, but beneficial discussions on race, equality and law enforcement.

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“Each of us has participated in and benefited from a system of white supremacy that was the force behind the knee of the Minneapolis police officer as he took the life of George Floyd,” Schwarzkopf said. “To our friends from black, brown, indigenous and other communities that have suffered from injustice at the hands of police, we invite you to kneel with us in mourning, remain standing proudly, sit, or any other silent action that you’re comfortable with.”

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“It is good for us to show up in moments like this,” Moughty said during her invocation. “You call us to be present, to make some noise and even yet you also call us to continue to show up when the cameras are gone, to continue to show up when this news cycle has gone.”

After the moment of silence, people of color were given the opportunity to speak in front of the group. However, no one came forward. With the ceremony over, gatherers split off into groups and chatted under the late afternoon sun. Afterward, Schwarzkopf said she was encouraged by the turnout for an event that organizers started to put together the prior weekend.

Moment of Silence for George Floyd

“A lot of calls have been coming out from nationwide organizations for some sort of action across the country to be planned for this evening, and we've all felt that we've had some, we had a vigil, (but) we still needed to get out into the community and show that more work needed to be done,” Schwarzkopf said.

“I hope everybody was able to take some meaning from it,” she later added. “I think it was really important for us, especially as a vast majority white community to also show that we are standing with people of color and their struggle right now.”

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Amanda Schwarzkopf talks to demonstrators Monday, June 8, who have gathered on the lawn of the historic Crow Wing County Courthouse to honor the memory of George Floyd with a moment of silence, which lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Cody Robertson, a resident of Fort Ripley, said he traveled up to Brainerd to contribute, even in a small way, toward justice for all.

“I support Black Lives Matter,” he said. “I support the movement. Stuff like this needs to happen, things need to get better. I'm trying to do my part.”

For Dick and Judy Schiller, residents of Fifty Lakes, Monday’s gathering served as a reminder that change can only come about if white people are actively promoting justice alongside people of color. This has been a notion that’s been reaffirmed throughout their lives, they said, from their earliest moments.

“We're here to show support,” Dick Schiller said. “We feel as white folks that we have been lacking in changing a system, or a society, and are hoping that are showing up and supporting change will bring about some change.”

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Jill (left) and Alex Hering kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse Monday, June 8, at a peaceful demonstration to honor the memory George Floyd who was memorialized Monday in Houston, Texas. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

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“I grew up in a neighborhood that was new and white and watched a black family move in. He was a wonderful doctor. He lost his wife a couple of weeks after they moved in and he had two daughters to raise,” Judy Schiller said. “I remember how I learned to accept everybody through my parents … and the oldest (daughter) became my friend. We used to walk hand in hand to school. Did we get looks, absolutely, but we were kids. We didn't pay any attention.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at gabe.lagarde@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch .
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