Gov. Roy Cooper said Sunday that the message of those peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd is important, but fears that message is being “drowned by the noise of the riots” in cities across the state.
“Unfortunately, today the headlines are not about those protesters and their call for serious, meaningful change,” Cooper said during a news conference. “They are more about riots and tear gas and broken windows and stolen property. That’s wrong and must be stopped.”
Floyd, who was black, died Monday in Minneapolis while handcuffed and lying on his stomach as a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes.
There have been peaceful protests in several large North Carolina cities, including Fayetteville, that became violent and saw buildings vandalized and stores looted. The governor said public safety officials told him that protests and demonstrations held during the day “remained focused, powerful and non-violent” but events became more disruptive at night.
Cooper has activated about 450 members of the N.C. National Guard. He said Sunday that Charlotte and Raleigh have asked for assistance from the Guard to help protect public structures.
“The unjust killing of George Floyd less than a week ago combined with many other recent and distant events broke open painful wounds,” Cooper said. “These scars mark generations of trauma that black people and other communities of color continue to suffer.
“I fear that the cry of the people is being drowned out by the noise of the riots. Let me be clear about one thing, people are more important than property. Black lives do matter.”
Department of Public Safety Secretary Eric Hooks, who is black, said that Floyd’s death “provided a flashpoint in communities across the nation. This flashpoint has shown a light once again on the disparities, divides and the need for redress and healing.
“I know this pain through my own life experiences as I’ve had to have the talk with my own son that everyone may not treat him fairly. But as a child created in the image of God, I had the highest expectations for him. The same is true for a group of 13-year-olds that I am privileged to coach from various racial backgrounds.”
However, Hooks said, he nor public safety officials can condone violent behavior in the street.
“As we call for calm and navigate the events in North Carolina, the state of North Carolina will support our local partners who are equally committed to preserving life and property,” Hooks said.
Cooper said he had spoken to Floyd’s sister, Bridgette, who lives in Hoke County. He said he assured her that he would work for justice in George Floyd’s name.
“This is a painful moment for our country and our great state of North Carolina,” Cooper said. “We have to constructively channel our anger, frustration and sadness to force accountability and action. If we don’t, then we haven’t learned anything.”
© 2020 The Fayetteville Observer
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