ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eight minutes and 46 seconds seems long when people are asked to stand silent and motionless.
“I’m sure a lot of people were wobbling at their knees and sore on their feet,” Mike Silva said. “We wanted people to feel and think about that, and that’s the symbolic nature of what we’re doing here today.”
Silva was an organizer of a silent protest Wednesday afternoon in support of Black Lives Matter that drew about 200 people Downtown to Civic Plaza. There, they stood facing City Hall for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck, killing him, despite Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe.
The Memorial Day death, recorded by a teen girl with a cellphone camera and posted online, triggered protests and violence in communities around the country, including Albuquerque.
During a Wednesday night prayer service, the archbishop of Santa Fe, John C. Wester, addressed historic and contemporary racism in America.
Silva, who owns Rude Boy Cookies and a sightseeing business, said the afternoon protest was “a call to action.”
“If you’re going to sit and do nothing, just know that we see you and we’re moving on without you,” he said. “We wanted to rally the community to come together and do something peaceful, and show what Albuquerque is really about,” Silva said.
Many who participated in the silent protest stood with a fist held high or carried signs saying “Justice, Peace,” “Our System Is Failing Us,” “Be the Change” and “Natives for Black Lives Matter.”
A co-organizer of the silent protest, Charles Ashley III, a technology company owner, said the manner of Floyd’s death was “brutal.”
“We don’t want people to lose this moment, to look at it and then it just goes away. Things like this happen a lot and then we just forget about it, we stop talking about it. This time, we’re not going to stop talking about it and we’re going to continue doing things about it. And that’s our ‘ask’ of the community, to step up and be counted.”
Local actor Clifton Chadwick said he joined the silent protest because “I just feel like time is running out on a lot of issues. … We have to be able to stop cops from being able to kill without any retribution or justice.”
Steven Lucero, who owns a technology consulting company, said Floyd’s death and the deaths of others in the black community at the hands of police have been occurring for too long. “This has to be solved and it’s incumbent on all of us to do so. It’s a moral obligation,” he said.
Trish Lopez agreed. “I was compelled to come out and show support for that which the black community has been telling us in every way for generations.”
Lopez, founder of the Teeniors program, which matches tech-savvy teens with seniors who want to learn about technology, said “if anyone turned a blind eye to this before, I don’t see how they can deny it in 2020.”
Brandon and Ashley Trebitowski came to the silent protest with their 11-year-old son, Cayden. “I wanted to show him what civic responsibility looks like, and that his parents care and love people,” Brandon said.
The message was not lost on Cayden, who said what happened to Floyd at the hands of police officers was “excessive.”
“It makes me angry,” he said. “All people are the same, they are all equal and they all deserve life.”