Editorial: The Last Dance
By Richard Gaw
'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At 8:10 on the morning of June 1, the 500 people who knelt on one knee at State and Union Streets in Kennett Square as part of the Black Lives Matter March to protest police brutality witnessed one of the finest moments in the history of the borough – a simple act of solidarity from an unlikely source.
Together, Kennett Square Borough Police Chief William Holdsworth, Corporal Kenneth Rongaus, Patrol Officer J.D. Boyer and department Chaplain Annalie Korengel stood in the middle of the intersection, and then knelt on one knee.
For the length of nine minutes, all of Kennett Square Borough was entirely quiet, and traffic was stopped in all directions. Suddenly, eight minutes and 46 seconds took on a new meaning, and the seconds seemed like hours in the silence, for this was the exact amount of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin took to penetrate his knee against the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25, while Chauvin’s fellow officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng stood by and watched Floyd die.
In the week since the video of Floyd’s murder surfaced, our nation and our world have vehemently expressed their collective anger, and the streets of our most prominent cities have become one long and loud march toward calls for justice.
With each step walked, in every city and in every town, the magnitude of these protests has been paved with facts. A recent report issued by the Washington Post indicated that since 2015, the use of lethal force by police officers on African-American men has been wildly and dangerously disproportionate. While the U.S. Census estimates that blacks make up 12 percent of the population, they accounted for 26.4 percent of those that were killed by police -- nearly twice their rate in the general population.
While the public’s response to the brutal beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, and the senseless murders of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York – all at the hands of white police officers – was both swift and powerful, it has been Floyd’s murder that has seemed to galvanize the country to lock arms with a surging sense of anger and urgency.
Now, more than at any other protest like it, the balled fist identity of Black Lives Matter is held up by white hands and Asian hands and Hispanic hands, and the power of Monday’s march in Kennett Square took on an even more ferocious impenetrable presence, because it was orchestrated by alliances – high school students and lawmakers and police officers and mothers holding their little children on their shoulders.
These are our current armies, and they have assembled in a continuous line across America and the world over the death of one man in a Midwestern city by a corrupt officer who should have never been allowed to be a cop in the first place.
They show no sign of stopping. The stunning reach of these protests is that that they have not yet hit their full crescendo, but their message is crystal clear to every police department in the nation: That the death of George Floyd on May 25 has become your last dance with indecency.
It has become the last time you can get away with the cold-blooded murder of African-American men and women under the masquerade of civic responsibility.
It signals that now is the time for every police chief and the boards of every police department to track down every last morsel of bigotry and racism in your ranks and remove them, officer by officer.
It indicates that this is the time to improve your hiring practices by more thoroughly vetting each candidate before hiring them and putting them on our streets.
It says that is the time to hire more officers of color.
It says that this is the time to tear down the walls of fear that keep men and women of color from ever getting to know you.
It says that this is the time to allow every person of color to see your eyes behind your wrap-around eyewear.
It signals that this is the time for you to either become part of this movement or get out of the way, because we are too far empowered to go silent now; and we will not retreat and we will not stop marching until there is proper justice served.
For the 500 protestors who marched in the streets of Kennett Square on the morning of June 1, witnessing the kneeling of Holdsworth, Rongaus, Boyer and Korengel in the intersection of State and Union streets was, at last, a small sign that the solidarity of their beliefs is at last being heard.