SOMERVILLE, NJ - More than 1,000 protestors marched down Main Street and back Sunday, closing out a busy weekend of Black Lives Matter demonstrations that saw crowds gather four times in three days on the lawn of the Historic Somerset County Courthouse.
On Sunday, there was a morning gathering, which walked down the sidewalks lining Main Street until turning around at Davenport Street and heading back to the courthouse. The crowd for the afternoon protest began to build around 3 p.m. The weekend began with a demonstration Friday afternoon, followed by Saturday's protest, which numbered around 500.
Sunday afternoon's demonstration was the largest.with a variety of home made signs helping to define the moment.
"Black Lives Matter." "Stop Killing Us." "Defund Police. Invest in the Community." "You Don't Have to be Black to Be Outraged." "White Silence is Violence." "I Can't Breathe." "Demilitarize the Police." and others sent a clear message in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Damning video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin showed Floyd in handcuffs lying face down on the street during an arrest. He was suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit bill in a nearby convenience store.
Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes. Floyd, in distress, cried out "I can't breathe." several times as seen on the IPhone video that was posted on social media and sparked a national outrage.
Chauvin and three other officers who assisted in the apprehension and arrest were fired the following day. Floyd became unresponsive during the final three minutes of Chauvin pressing his knee against his neck. Two autopsies have concluded Floyd died of asphyxiation.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison upgraded a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin to second degree, while the other three officers - Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane - have now been charged with two counts of aiding and abetting and second-degree murder.
They have been arrested and each is being held on $1 million bail.
If convicted on both counts, the officers face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000, according to Ellison.
The video shows Kueng holding Floyd's back, Lane holding his legs, and Thao looking on and preventing intervention by an onlooker as he stood nearby.
Speakers at Sunday afternoon's demonstration urged the crowd to keep up the pressure, to demand justice, and to stand in solidarity. The crowd spilled out on to Main Street, and marched past Bridge Street, Division Street, and Davenport Street before reaching Doughty Street, where they turned around and headed back to the courthouse lawn, where the protest continued until late in the afternoon.
Cries of "What Do We Want?" answered by "Justice," followed by "When Do We Want It?" "Now." and "No Justice, No Peace" were heard throughout the day, along with other chants.
There was no police presence at Sunday's peaceful demonstration other than a few police cars that drove by on East Main Street.