Several Chandler police kneel with peaceful protesters - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Several Chandler police kneel with peaceful protesters

June 15th, 2020 development
Several Chandler police kneel with peaceful protesters

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Dozens of protestors gathered in Chandler last Tuesday for a peaceful demonstration that ended with city police kneeling alongside activists outside City Hall.

Chandler became the latest city to host protestors outraged at the recent death of George Floyd, an African-American killed on May 25 after a Minnesota police officer knelt down on his neck for several minutes.   

Similar to recent demonstrations seen in Phoenix and Tucson, the protestors in Chandler called for social justice, police accountability, and a basic acknowledgment of the violence committed against Floyd.

Unlike some of the protests in both Phoenix and Scottsdale last weekend, however, the Chandler demonstration was peaceful.

“The system is clearly flawed,” said 20-year-old Ashanti Grayer of Chandler, who stood along Arizona Avenue for hours holding a sign stating “Silence is Violence.”

Local officials need to speak out more loudly on these recent incidents of police brutality, Grayer said, and not just implement curfews – referencing Gov. Doug Ducey’s recent order to restrict public protests after rioters caused millions of dollars of damage at Scottsdale Fashion Square Saturday night and Sunday morning last weekend.

Ducey did call the circumstances of Floyd’s death “tragic and abhorrent” on Sunday.

But Grayer said she wants to hear more from her elected leaders on what they’ll be doing to ensure not another person unjustly dies at the hands of law enforcement.

She said it was important that protests be held in communities like Chandler because local residents need to see that their neighbors care about this issue.

“I think it’s important to speak out against injustices anywhere that you see them,” Grayer said.

Other protestors tried getting the attention of Chandler residents with signs exhibiting slogans like “Arrest Killer Cops” and “Silence is Compliance.”

Hannah Babington, a recent graduate of Horizon Honors High School, filled her sign with names like Eric Garner and Philando Castile – other black men previously killed by police officers elsewhere in the country.

“There wasn’t enough room on the sign for how many black people were innocently killed by cops,” the Chandler teen said.

Babington said it’s time for the country to make some systematic changes because she doesn’t want the next generation to grow up in this type of environment.

“We’re here to make change and it’s going to happen,” she added.

Several motorists honked their horns as they drove past crowds of demonstrators huddled around the intersection of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard.

The mass gathering eventually migrated down to City Hall, where protestors took a moment to silently kneel and raise their fists into the air.

At least three officers of the Chandler Police Department took part in the demonstration by kneeling alongside the protestors.

The deaths of George Floyd and Dion Johnson, a Phoenix man fatally shot by a state trooper last month, have reignited demands from some community leaders for Arizona’s police agencies to be more transparent in how they operate.

Chandler Police already has an oversight commission made up of 15 civilians who are tasked with reviewing and scrutinizing use-of-force incidents involving the agency’s officers.

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan has recently described the video footage of Floyd’s death as “disgusting” and promised that his officers are not taught to use that level of force on civilians.

“That tactic is not something I’ve ever seen condoned or trained in,” the chief said this week in a video posted by the city.

News of Chandler’s protest began circulating online Tuesday morning and by the late afternoon demonstrators had assembled outside the Chandler Center for the Arts.

The protestors represented a wide spectrum of the community’s population; young and old, black and white – the crowd’s diversity was particularly memorable for 71-year-old Ahmad Daniels.

The Tempe resident said he was moved to see so many young activists turn out and support causes he’s been fighting for decades.

The Chandler protest is only one of several that Daniels, an African-American, has attended during his lifetime. He said he has marched for civil rights and protested against wars and feels as if history continues to repeat itself.

“I haven’t seen much change in my 71 years,” Daniels said.

The public has begun to slowly realize that issues raised by the African-American community are not petty, he said, and have been part of a systematic institution of oppression.

“There’s not a chip on our shoulders – there’s a foot on our necks,” he added. “Those feet have been there for decades.”

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