As demonstrations turn violent in many cities across the United States, a Conway protest over the death of George Floyd remained peaceful Sunday.
“We wanted to remain peaceful because they can’t hear us through violence,” said protest organizer Unique Burroughs. “Even though we are angry, we are hurting and we are tired of being tired, you have to do things the right way.”
The protesters met in front of the Horry County Courthouse and walked around downtown Conway before returning to the courthouse steps to discuss their movement and say a prayer.
Police were on hand and made sure the protesters remained safe while marching through the streets. Protesters walked along the sidewalks while chanting “No justice, no peace” and “I’m black and I’m proud.”
“We didn’t come here to loot. We came here to tell our story,” Burroughs said. “Let’s not just talk about change, but let’s really change. Let’s be the change.”
There were close to 230 people marching and protesting in downtown Conway Sunday, all in response to the death of Floyd, a black man in Minnesota who was killed by a white police officer last week.
Floyd was arrested after police said he used a counterfeit $20 bill. In a video that has been shared numerous times on social media, the officer is seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least eight and a half minutes. In the video, Floyd is heard pleading for his life, telling the officer “I can’t breathe.”
Four days after the video of Floyd’s death circulated on social media, the officer was arrested and charged with third-degree murder.
Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy called Floyd's death a “senseless murder.” She was one of the people participating in Sunday’s protest.
“I am so proud that the people of Conway and surrounding areas are taking a stand,” she said.
There was a mixture of ages and races among the crowd gathered on the steps of the courthouse Sunday. Black and white citizens alike shared moments of solidarity throughout the protest, chanting with each other and raising their fists to the sky.
“To have a mixture of people come out together and boldly say we stand against this, we stand for truth and honor, we stand for equal justice for all and to do this peacefully and cohesively is extremely thought provoking,” said Blain-Bellamy, the first black person to serve as Conway's mayor.
Toward the end of the protest as Burroughs was speaking, there was a warm exchange between a black man and a white police officer in front of the courthouse. The black man thanked the officer for helping with the event.
“That moment lets me know that every cop is not a bad cop,” Burroughs said. “The same way every black person is not a threat. We are equal.”