Over the weekend, much of the United States, including Arkansas, responded with sadness, anger and hurt, and wanting their voice to be heard regarding the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.

Over the weekend, much of the United States, including Arkansas, responded with sadness, anger and hurt, and wanting their voice to be heard regarding the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.
While peaceful protests were organized successfully, acts of violence also hit communities due to violent protesting, rioting and violence.
In Little Rock, a peaceful rally near the capitol Saturday afternoon turned violent after nightfall as windows and buildings were destroyed across from the state Capitol. On the Little Rock news stations, video footage showed Arkansas State Police firing tear gas to dislodge protesters.
Sunday Morning, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson tweeted his concern for the violence:
“Last night a diverse group of Arkansans gathered in downtown Little Rock for what started out as a peaceful protest. They expressed justifiable outrage to the oppressive treatment of African American in the case of George Floyd and too many other cases across the country. It is important that voices be heard to express hurt, anger and frustration about this injustice. While vandalism and defacing public property are against the law and contrary to the spirit of non-violent protest, I am hopeful that we can listen better, engage more and ultimately unite to support equal justice for all.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington expressed her sentiments stating right now, pain is deeply etched into the soul of our community and the hearts of millions around the world.
“Numerous protests across the country have turned into riots following the death of George Floyd,” said Washington. “Citizens in Pine Bluff are just as frustrated with racial injustice as people in other communities. However, our citizens are expressing that pain in different ways. We know that creating violence and destruction is not the solution. We must maintain a non-violent approach that creates spaces for action and open dialogue.”
The Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition Ministerial Alliance, led by President Jesse Turner and Vice President Roosevelt Brown, stated they also lend their voices speaking out against what was a brutal use of force and power by a Minnesota Police officer on a handcuffed African American man.
“We stand with the citizens of Minnesota that justice will prevail,” said Turner.
Turner said PBFCC continues to work with the Pine Bluff Police Department, calling on all Pine Bluff citizens to remain calm during these days of increasing tension which is spilling out across the nation.
“People are reaching out to our office, the police department, and other elected officials directly to express their pain,” said Washington, “we have built strong relationships with community organizers and faith based leaders, which are also providing opportunities for us to listen and communicate with one another.”
PBFCC said they have appealed for prayer, peace, and respect for life and property at a most volatile time for their community, as well as other communities.
“Through the years, we have built strong relationships with community organizers and faith based leaders, which are also providing opportunities for us to listen and communicate with one another. This reduces the risks of major unrest or property damage because people feel as though they are being heard through other means,” said Washington. “They know that the City of Pine Bluff is not working against them. We are their partners and advocates in the fight against racial injustice. Working together as a unified force is the only way to prevail against it.”
The official autopsy indicated that the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death.
“It was murder in my eyes and I pray that justice is served, that all the officers are punished,” said Shelly Carrigan, a Southeast Arkansas resident. “This has had my heart sick all week long, every time they show it on the news I tear up. It was wrong, it was, cruel, and yes cold hearted. My heart not only hurts for George Floyd’s family it hurts with them.”
Floyd’s murder not only opened up wounds of social injustice and racism embedded in the systems enacted by people, it also became a topic of discussion in many homes across the nation.
L.N. Baker is a woman of color but you wouldn’t be able to tell looking at her. Born with fair skin compared to her siblings, Baker said she was viewed as white.
“I used to feel like an outcast and shame for not being born with beautiful tan skin like everyone else,” said Baker. “I had a conversation with my mother last year about these feelings. I told her how I felt and asked her if she was ever ashamed of me. I was stunned to hear her say the opposite. She was relieved when I came out so fair. She was relieved because she knew I would never be targeted for my skin color like she was. Of all the things that parents worry about for their children, dying because of the way I look in this country isn’t one of them.”
Baker voiced that as someone who has white friends, they shouldn’t vocalize about the riots and how they destroy communities because they didn’t speak up about how racism destroys a community and humanity first.
“I have walked through this world as a white person and am very aware of the privilege that has afforded me,” said Baker. “We have a responsibility to learn, listen, and stand up against racism in all forms. Call out the seemingly harmless jokes that hide deep rooted bias and prejudice. Learn about micro-aggressions, repent, and change.”
Calling out is exactly what one community did as a woman in the community expressed her lack of empathy during the protest on a very public forum.
During the live viewing of the protest in Little Rock provided by Fox 16 Sunday night, an Arkansas County woman expressed her point of view with comments stating “I will pay for the ship to put all your black assets on! Even give each of you a 20 for a chicken leg and some watermelon.”
Her comments continued in a manner that not only caught the attention of local residents that knew her but also her employer.
According to Lumber One Home Center of Stuttgart, they were made aware early Monday morning that an employee had expressed racist sentiments on Facebook.
“This employee was terminated effective immediately this morning,” said Adam Wells, President of Lumber One Home Center of Stuttgart. “Lumber One does not typically comment on personnel matters but due to the appalling nature of comments made, it is important for us to make clear our position.”
In the statement Wells makes clear that Lumber One strongly condemns any and all forms of racism, whether spoken or unspoken.
“We will never tolerate hate, ignorance or prejudice to be associated with our company and employees,” said Wells. “We stand with everyone who has hurt and outraged by this person’s Facebook post.”
Baker says systemic racism is real and change must start within ourselves and there are individual actions that can be taken by individuals to disseminate racism. Recognizing the wounds that racism creates, learning or relearning the history of racism and opening your eyes to the cost of what racism creates and holding people accountable are what many feel are the steps towards change.
“We do not get to say that it is not and then condemn the acts of frustration that follow when nothing changes,” said Baker. “Love each other well. Stand up for our brothers and sisters of color. Stand against racism in all forms - there’s no such thing as “harmless” when it comes to racism and prejudice.”
Floyd’s death is pulling communities together and Washington says to continue supporting the citizens of Pine Bluff, a series of public forums with leaders from the community is in the works.
“We hope these conversations will serve as peaceful and constructive examples to the state of Arkansas and the world during this time,” said Washington. “As we seek healing and change, let us continue to treasure our community by protecting our landmarks and neighborhoods, the people who live here, and our values. Together as a community, we must continue being the change we need for a better world.”
On May 25, Floyd, an African-American man, died in Powderhorn, a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Millions around the world witnessed Floyd who was handcuffed, lying face down on a city street during an arrest as Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The incident was captured on video and shared around the world to millions who empathized during that moment where 2 minutes and 53 seconds of that time occurred after Floyd became unresponsive.
According to a number of televised and published reports over the weekend, Chauvin was arrested four days after George Floyd’s fatal arrest that sparked protests, rioting and outcry across the city and nation.
He was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.