FAIRMONT — Pastors and community members marched in silence Sunday afternoon from Trinity United Methodist Church to the Marion County Courthouse to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd.
Escorted by Fairmont Police officers, members of the Pastoral Alliance for Social Justice and Change walked up Cleveland Avenue and down Adams Street. The precession ended at the steps of the courthouse and the group remained silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time Floyd was face down with former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
A handbell rang out as each minute in silence passed.
“The results are in, George Floyd is dead and the man who murdered him is convicted,” said Mike Little, pastor of Good Hope Baptist Church in Barrackville and member of the alliance. “This is us coming together in recognition of that. To really accomplish unity more than anything else.”
On April 20, a jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd’s death.
The march was held to keep alive the names of those who were killed at the hands of police using excessive force. The group recognized not only George Floyd, but individuals like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many other people of color who have lost their lives.
“This past year was a year of hurt and intense grieving,” said Mark Staples, pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church if Fairmont, and a leader of the pastoral alliance. “We wanted to create a space to help the community mourn the death of George Floyd in a healthy manner.”
Brad Bennett, pastor of Trinity United Methodist and member of the pastoral alliance, echoed Little’s words about unity and solidarity.
“Really we’re here to stand in solidarity with those who saw George Floyd’s death as something they could relate to,” Bennett said. “This is an opportunity for us to bring unity to the community. We’re all in this together and we believe we’re all human beings with hopes, dreams and joys. I think we just need the opportunity to realize that.”
In the weeks after Floyd’s murder, the world was in shock after the video documenting his death spread via the internet. Protest marches took place in cities and towns all across the U.S. and the world. After learning of Floyd’s death and the outrage it sparked, local pastors came together to form the Pastoral Alliance for Social Justice and Change.
After the observance of silence at the courthouse, organizers performed music, read poetry and prayed as the guests joined in.
“Today, there’s a lot of things weighing in my spirit,” said Charlotte Moody, minister at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, in Fairmont. “My desire is Christ’s desire, that we all come together as one.”
Many of the speakers said regardless of a person’s race, everyone has a responsibility to stand up against hatred and racism.
“God loves everyone the same and we ought to love each other the same,” Moody said. “We should all have the same heart, same mindset and the same spirit. I’ve dealt with racism, and it was only by the grace of God, that God gave me the heart to love beyond those faults. That’s what God wants us to do.”
Now that the service has passed and the anniversary of the death of Floyd has come and gone, Staples and the alliance look forward to continue pushing for positive change with the help of city officials like Fairmont Chief of Police Steve Shine.
“Shine will attend our June meeting... and I’m sure the mayor will have some other city figures attend as well,” Staples said. “We are excited to continue to meet and we sill keep abreast of the process of police reform.”
This story was updated on May 25