Situated between a World War I monument and a Confederate Civil War cannon, around 100 young activists gathered in Mobile’s Memorial Park Thursday afternoon to protest the death of George Floyd and other black people who died at the hands of police.
Compared to the civil unrest seen in Mobile on Sunday and in Birmingham and Huntsville over the last five days, Thursday’s protest in the Port City was remarkably different. Protesters, who lined Old Government Street and Government Street, were young, diverse, and very peaceful.
On the Government Street side of the protest, music blared as protesters of high school and college age paraded their signs and shouted, “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace.” In return, motorists honked and raised their fists in a show of solidarity.
“Every age should be out here. We are trying to make a change,” said Daimontage Finch-Tucker, 22, a Junior at the University of South Alabama and Army Reserve. Finch-Tucker said Mobile was fortunate it didn’t have to see snipers on rooftops like in Huntsville.
“They didn’t think they were going to be shot. George Floyd didn’t think his last words would be, ‘I can’t breathe.’”
Finch-Tucker added that his cousin had been arrested for playing music too loudly while driving past a protest on Airport Boulevard Sunday evening. Police said that he helped incite the unrest that followed, including police shooting pepper balls at protesters.
That same night, 13 people were arrested by MPD in connection with the protests. Around 26 charges were filed against those arrested, including charges of disorderly conduct, burglary, criminal mischief, and arson.
Since then, Mobile has had a string of peaceful protests, taking place in Prichard and in West Mobile. Mobile Police Chief of Police Lawrence Battiste personally greeted some of the activists at a protest outside a Dollar Tree Tuesday, telling them to look after themselves. He then left and had a single patrol car come to ensure everyone was safe.
At Thursday’s protest in Memorial Park, police turned up on a couple of occasions to tell activists and one AL.com reporter to stay off the roadway. A few people shouted obscenities at the officer, who paid no attention and went back to his car.
Despite the lack of police, some first-time protesters had decided to take precautions after having seen the violent clashes between police and protesters across the country.
Taylor Spears, 22, asked her father to accompany her to Thursday’s protests in case something happened.
“I wanted to come anyways, but I wanted him with me because a lot of times this doesn’t end well,” she said. “I wanted someone to account for me when this is over.”
She added: “I think these start peacefully, but the people in power are itching to touch somebody and when you touch somebody that’s when things turn.
“I still haven’t gotten over Trayvon Martin. I know people older than us have seen a lot but we’re having to do something about that now.”
Toward the end of the protest, and in keeping with protests around the country, everyone knelt 8 minutes and 46 seconds that Floyd remained pinned under the knee of Minneapolis Police Office Derek Chauvin.