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Danville protest remains peaceful, positive

A peaceful demonstration for people to stand in solidarity against the recent death of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of white police officers was held in downtown Danville Tuesday evening.

An estimated crowd of at least 300 people of all ages and skin colors, many wearing face masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic and carrying homemade signs, gathered on the warm, sunny evening along both sides of Second Street between Second and Walnut streets, which was an African American business district generations ago.

Protesters chanted, “Say his name! George Floyd!”, “I can’t breathe!” “Black lives matter!” and “No justice, no peace!”

Some drivers passing through the area waved and honked their horns in show of support for the protesters.

Signs included, “I understand that I will never understand, but I will stand with you,” “Fix the system” and “Silence is betrayal.”

One of the demonstration’s organizers was Cheryl Burton, who wore a black T-shirt with the words “I can’t breathe.”

Burton said the protest demonstrated that people think, “It’s time for a change in every part of the country, and even in our Danville.”

Wednesday morning, Burton said she was “very satisfied” with Tuesday evening’s demonstration. She added that it “opened the door for change” against police brutality and inequality.

Danville Assistant Chief of Police Glenn Doan said the department thought the protest was “excellent.” He said people were respectful of he and Chief Tony Gray.

And off duty officers participated, even taking a knee with the protesters, to show that they “wanted to stand with our community,” Doan said.

Gray said the protest was about the way George Floyd died in police custody and how people have been treated by some police officers.

He said people are “shocked by what they saw on the video.”

“No Danville police officer believes that was acceptable behavior,” Gray said. “We’re against police brutality and excessive force.”

Gray said his department focuses on recruiting, training and maintaining officers to serve this community “correctly, 100% of the time.”

Tuesday night’s demonstration “I thought was an outstanding event. The organizers did an outstanding job,” Gray said.

Doan said the event was an opportunity to have “an open dialog between police and the community members.” He added that he and Gray always have had an open door policy where anyone with an issue can come in and they talk about the problem and “work through it.”

Gray added, “We want to be a part of this community. We have responsibilities, and people have expectations of us. We have to lead by example.”