By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – While much has changed in one year since the death of George Floyd, the call to organize has not ceased.
Marking the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death, local supporters of Black Lives Matter expressed concern with what they view as ongoing police brutality in other parts of the county.
About two dozen people attended a memorial Tuesday at the Kosciusko County Courthouse in Warsaw to look back at his impact and the ongoing effort to bring attention to instances of police brutality and injustice.
Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer – and the video of his death taken by a bystander – fueled worldwide protests last year including a string of rallies in Warsaw and Winona Lake.
One officer, Derek Chauvin, has been convicted of murder and three more officers are awaiting trial.
Some progress has been seen in terms of policy changes. Congress is considering legislation named after Floyd that would ban some practices including chokeholds by police. Many states, including Indiana, have passed some level of police reform legislation in the past year.
On Tuesday, members of the Floyd family met with President Joe Biden and toured Capitol Hill.
But claims of police brutality continue to come to light, often relying on video to support their claims.
But people of color continue to say racist behavior continues to exist and is part of the problem.
Brandon Bohnke, from Warsaw, 31, said he did not plan on speaking at the memorial, but did and told the crowd about an incident in an RV factory in Middlebury where talk of Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests became a subject of talk.
Bohnke said he told some co-workers that he thought the main takeaway was that black people just want to be treated equally.
Afterward, he said his boss told him that he’s “always seen him as a monkey.”
The situation was made worse the next day, he said, when his boss asked if he was still upset.
Shocked and stunned, Bohnke tried going back to work, but soon quit rather than work in a hostile environment.
He pointed out that some people continue to ask why people of color are still upset.
People think that black people are looking for a handout. People think that all this racial injustice is happening in all these Democratic cities,” Bohnke said. “No, it’s happening right here in Podunk, Indiana.”
I want to bring to attention that this is home. This is home for a lot of people that look like me … We need the support and we need people to say that that’s not enough. You can’t say that anymore. We won’t let y’all get away with this,” Bohnke said.
Several others addressed the crowd.
Sara McNeal-Strahan-Lenfestey, an organizer, asked the community to think about the pain felt when people saw the video and to turn that empathy into action.
A South Bend activist encouraged people to confront leaders about their concerns and do it in a way that “makes them feel uncomfortable.”
Much like the rallies held last year, a few motorists on Tuesday drove by, revving their engines in protest to the memorial. One truck that drove by twice had a confederate flag and a Thin Blue Line flag supporting police.
Two women who started the local series of protests a year ago at Central Park, did not attend Tuesday’s rally.
Organizers of the event were Voices Against Injustice, which has a Facebook page. The new group is made up of local activists who want to stand up to social injustice.
The group is installing the first of what might be several outdoor food pantries in the county. The first one will be behind the law office of Travis McConnell on North Buffalo Street.