LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – After 14 days of protesting, Polk County’s Black Lives Matter group is meeting with local law enforcement to continue the reform conversation.
A cry for justice and equality is sweeping the nation after the death of George Floyd, 46. Floyd died while officials say former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death was captured on video and protests erupted after the video made its rounds on social media.
Monday marks two weeks since Floyd died. On this day, Polk County’s BLM group will meet with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Lakeland Police and community leaders for a panel discussion on equality, police reform and moving forward. The panel will take place at 6 p.m. at Cannon Funeral Home at 317 W. Memorial Blvd.
The panel is taking place just one day after more than 2000 protesters made their way through Munn Park.
The protest in Lakeland Sunday organized by Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc. included a somber reminder about the reasons for demonstrations in Florida and beyond.
A caravan of several hearses honored black lives lost during the march to Munn Park.
“People just needed to see it wasn’t just that one guy or two guys, it’s a whole host of people and they all were wrongfully murdered,” organizer Jarvis Washington said.
Some of the names on the hearses are more recognizable like Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery, while others died with their stories becoming national news.
“I think there has been a silent injustice that has happened to our people for far too long,” Angel Ponder said.
Monday marks two weeks since George Floyd died with a Minneapolis Police officer’s knee pressed down on his neck.
“I think the video definitely changed the world as we have had a reaction this time that we have not ever had,” said Brandon Moore, who drove one of the hearses.
In the crowd of demonstrators, 8 On Your Side’s Justin Schecker spoke with people who had ideas on how to build a better relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“We need more compassion from our officers, more understanding,” Gakia Stephens said. “You don’t have to arrest every time.”
Washington told 8 On Your Side he would like to see more community policing and officers wearing body cameras.
“It’s strong questions that we have to ask and it starts with protocol,” he said.
The protest a week ago in Lakeland ended with clashes and tear gas, but that wasn’t the case Sunday during the calm and peaceful demonstration.
“We got a chance to show the people of Florida, the people of the United States that polk county can actually do it right,” Washington said. “We are organized. We are willing to have those conversations and we are looking for unity.”
Washington said on Monday evening the conversation will continue at a panel with Lakeland Police, the Polk County Sherriff’s Office and community leaders.