Southfield takes a knee to honor George Floyd

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Southfield — After weeks of civil unrest due to racial injustices against African Americans, residents of Metro Detroit have been healing by kneeling. 

On Sunday, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver and Southfield police Chief Elvin Barren stood with residents, business owners and others in solidarity and peace by forming a human chain spanning 10 and 11 Mile roads. 

About 350 people lined up on both sides on Evergreen Road in front of the Southfield Public Library. 

"Nothing has changed without protest. Nothing has been transformational without using our ... constitutional right to peacefully protest," said Lawrence. "We cannot be silent, we must use our voice."

They wore face masks and stood 6 feet apart while forming the chain to abide by COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines.  After, participants took a knee for eight minutes and 42 seconds, marking the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck, whose death sparked international outrage and protests. 

From right, Southfield police Officer Arthur Rucinski kneels Sunday with police Chief Elvin Barren and police Chaplain Rev. Rosemerry Allen for the eight minutes and 46 seconds that a Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck.

For over an hour, people stood along the street holding signs and yelling chants as drivers  honking their horns and raised their fists. 

"The only way we can make change is if we do it together ... it's really about coming together as one," said Cherron Jones, the founder of Urban Unity CDC. 

The city of Southfield and Urban Unity CDC, a nonprofit organization for foster children, created Southfield Unity Dayto express "sorrow, pain and angst over police officers who have employed excessive and deadly force and systematic racism."

Gloves, face masks, water and hand sanitizers were handed out. A table was set up for people to register to vote, and mental health counselors were available through CNS Healthcare, who also sponsored the event. 

"All we want is fairness and equality ... but our skin has become a weapon," said retired Southfield Public Schools teacher Crystal Cross, 51.

Southfield officials said they support police training as well as amending departmental policies and practices to "de-escalate tense situations and avoid the use of deadly force."

Barren said the Southfield Police Department revised its "use of force" policy to require every sworn officer to stop another sworn officer when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required. 

"It does not stop here. These initiatives must continue right now," said Barren. "If we're wrong, then I'm going to say we're wrong ... you have a police chief who is not afraid to go against the grain."

Members of the Divine Nine, nine black fraternities and sororities that were created with missions to serve black communities, also participated in the demonstration.

"That's what the D9 is all about ... to be out here on the frontlines because this matters," said Southfield Police Department Sgt. Shannon Robinson, who is a member of Omega Psi Phi.

"Wrong is wrong no matter who it is ... and we're not going to tolerate it."