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Community gathers for peaceful protest at FIU
The community honors a moment of silence. Photo by Margi Rentis.

Community gathers for peaceful protest at FIU

June 6, 2020 at 11:15pm

Approximately 1,000 people gathered at MMC on Saturday afternoon to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Since George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, protests have ignited around the world.

Political science grad Kiyra Ellis ’20 organized a peaceful protest at the university.

“I thought it was very successful. I feel like FIU students and people in the community felt heard and felt listened to—and were able to express what needed to be done in the community,” Ellis said. 

Members of the community gathered in a parking lot adjacent to PG5 in the afternoon. While people got ready to march, volunteers passed out water, snacks and masks. FIU provided portable restrooms.

Marketing major Carlos Rivero, who was born in Venezuela, said: “The fact that this protest is happening at FIU, it shows that there’s strength in unity. All the diversity is coming together to protest for one movement, the Black Lives Matter movement."

The group marched across campus to the front of the School of Music, raising signs and chanting calls for justice along the way. Then they took a knee in the street and were silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds—the same amount of time that George Floyd had an officer’s knee on his neck before he died, according to Ellis.

The silence was broken by FIU staff member Felicia Townsend when she began to sing a spiritual.

"He’s got the whole world in his hands," she sang softly. People rose to their feet, applauded the moment of silence and Townsend's singing and made their way back to the parking lot.

Townsend said: “I have male children. It’s nerve wracking just to see them go out of the house and to wait for them to get back home, hoping they get home safely.

"So this means a lot to me. It’s awesome to see this come together. A lot of times, we do a protest, and it’s one ethnic group mostly, but the world has joined in with their support, and that means more than anything.”

College of Medicine student Eric Helm asked himself before he came: Should he be participating in a mass gathering during a pandemic?

“That's a really tough question. I've been asking myself it all week," said Helm. "[Right now], I would never go to a friend’s house to just hang out for no reason, let alone hang out with a couple hundred people. I guess racism, globally, is a 400 year-old pandemic. As awful as COVID-19 is, racism is a pandemic that has killed more, and we can’t ignore that.”

As George Floyd is laid to rest on Tuesday, the FIU family will honor the memory of all victims of racial violence with a moment of silence.

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, please join the FIU community to pause for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, representing the length of time Mr. Floyd was restrained by police officers in Minneapolis before he died on May 25.

The university has lowered the FIU flag on campuses and other locations. 

FIU remains committed to advocating for racial equity, understanding and action.