By Saraana Jamraj
After the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer, a pair of two young cousins in Coral Springs was motivated to plan a protest—and within a day, the response has been overwhelming, they say.
Mahek Manjiani, 19, and Shayan Shivji, 17, Coral Springs residents who are both Pakistani-Americans, say that as people of color, they know about oppression—however, they say, this moment must be focused on the oppression and injustice black Americans, in particular, face.
“This is a matter of injustice for all minority groups, but at this time our black brothers and sisters are the ones at risk and being oppressed, this is about the support our black community needs,” said Manjiani, who attends Florida International University.
She said that everyone needs to come together to advocate against the horrific treatment of black Americans in the community, and her cousin agrees.
“Of course all lives matter, but our primary focus is Black Lives Matter,” said Shivji, who is a senior at Coral Springs Charter School.
Both residents say the protest is aimed to support the black community at large, but that it was sparked by Floyd’s murder.
On May 25, George Floyd, 46, of Minnesota attempted to pay for a pack of cigarettes at his regular grocery store with a $20 bill. A store employee suspected the bill was a counterfeit and called the police.
According to the store owner, Floyd was a friendly face and pleasant customer who never caused any trouble. He said that, unfortunately, he wasn’t there that day.
Following the 911 call, police officers arrived on the scene and ordered that Floyd put his hands up. The officers claimed he resisted arrest, but viral videos of the incident show Floyd in compliance.
Officer Derek Chauvin arrived on the scene when Floyd was being put into the police car when Floyd said he felt claustrophobic. Chauvin pulled him out of the vehicle and caused him to fall to the ground.
Witnesses filmed Floyd, on the ground, handcuffed, with Chauvin on top of him, with his knee pressed firmly into Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Floyd begged for his life repeatedly and told the officers, “I can’t breathe.”
Chauvin did not relent, and in the last few minutes of his life, Floyd called out for his mother, who had passed away.
He became unresponsive within six minutes and was pronounced dead an hour later.
The four officers involved were fired the next day, however, initially, the prosecutors declined to press charges. Four days later, after protests and demands of accountability, Chauvin was taken into custody and arrested for third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Shivji and Manjiani, along with activists around the country, say that’s not nearly enough.
The other three officers involved, who were present and stood by without intervening, Officer J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao, and Thomas Lane, have not been arrested.
After the shooting, it was discovered Chauvin had at least 17 complaints on his record and had previously shot and/or killed several men of color.
The video and the lack of accountability have sparked outrage.
Protests around the country have been taking place during the past week, the majority of which have been peaceful, but some have escalated as tensions between the police and protestors rise.
Manjiani said that people should not discredit the message behind the protests going around the country just because some of them have escalated—especially given that peaceful protests have been ignored for so long, despite the issue having been around forever.
“It’s the only way our voices are going to be heard,” said Manjiani.
However, she is confident this protest will stay peaceful, and everyone she has spoken with has come into it with the same intention.
“We have everyone’s parents coming out—my parents, Shayan’s parents, our friends’ parents, to make sure we stay safe,” said Manjiani.
In addition, when the response for the protest started to become large, she expected pushback from the police but said that the Coral Springs Police Department’s Sergeant Bruno was very supportive and cooperative, and assured her that the police presence would be there for the safety of participants.
The organizers say that they expect at least 100 to 200 protestors to come out and support the cause on Tuesday.
“I never thought I would get this much support for a matter I believe so deeply in and genuinely care so much about,” said Manjiani.
Rules for participating include no violence, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing.
Signs and water are encouraged.
People who violate the rules will be asked to leave.
For those who aren’t able to come out in person, drive-by protests are encouraged, especially those that include signs and messages of solidarity with the black community.
They hope that this protest will draw awareness to the injustice black Americans face, and also promote more accountability for the police.
“There needs to be harsher punishment [for police misconduct and brutality], undercover agents targeting racism within the force, and higher education for police because clearly, the 6-month program isn’t working,” said Shivji.
The protest will take place on Tuesday, June 2, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. across from Starbucks on W Sample Road near Coral Springs Charter High School.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. She’s completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004.She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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