CANTON — Nine minutes, once a day for the next nine days.
Bells tolled at churches in Canton and Potsdam at noon Wednesday, marking the first of nine days of ringing to honor the Black Lives Matter movement and the memory of George Floyd.
Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed May 25, when Derek Chauvin, a 44-year-old white and now former Minneapolis police officer, knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during an apparent arrest. Two minutes and 53 seconds of that neck restraint occurred after Mr. Floyd was unresponsive, according to the Minnesota District Court criminal complaint filed against Mr. Chauvin.
Mr. Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder, carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years, and second-degree manslaughter, carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $20,000 fine. Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison on Wednesday afternoon announced the murder charge lodged against Mr. Chauvin has been increased to second-degree murder, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 40 years in Minnesota.
Three other police officers who stood by — Thomas Lane, 37, J.A. Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 — were fired last week and arrested Wednesday in connection to Mr. Floyd’s death. Details about those charges were not available at the time of this report.
“George Floyd was held under the knee of a police officer for almost nine minutes and died as a result,” said the Rev. James Galasinski, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton. “We want to keep his name ringing to raise awareness that Black Lives Matter and that we need to reform the systems of injustice that plague people of color in our nation. We want to continue our commitment to social justice by disrupting the culture of white supremacy and partnering with all faiths to end racial inequality.”
Unitarian Universalist communities across the country have convened this week through the Unitarian Universalist Association, meeting virtually and holding vigils for black victims of police violence.
The UUA hosted a Facebook Live prayer vigil Tuesday evening, reaching more than 28,000 Facebook users. Called -WeCantBreathe, the vigil involved UUA leaders, musicians and justice advocates, including Everette Thompson, UUA campaign manager for Side with Love, an initiative launched in 2009 that confronts “exclusion, oppression and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, race, religion or any other identity,” the SWL website reads.
“Love requires us to struggle, love requires us to stretch, love requires us to actually understand our own boundaries and to stay porous, letting things in and letting things out,” Mr. Thompson said during the vigil. “It is from this place of love that I come and I speak with us, collective us, and extend love to the folks who are out on the frontlines and the fence lines.”
A proud southerner, a proud black father of a black son, Mr. Thompson said his ancestors spoke his name into existence when they implored white citizens and white structures to “see us in our humanity, not for now, but for our whole lives, not for now, but for our children’s children.”
“Although I sit in a southern seat with a southern drawl, I am very clear that wherever you are on this continent, there has been a place of rebellion, due to othering and saying that others’ humanity is not worthy to be fully recognized, and your bodies need to be policed, and that you, too, my friend are capital.”
Speaking with love and care, agitation and rage, Mr. Thompson urged white people to see that black people, LGBTQ people and all “others” deserve “not only to breathe, but to thrive.”
“This, what we’re seeing right now, is not a riot,” he said. “It’s a rebellion. It’s a reclaiming of our humanity.”
“We invite all to use this time to reflect on how our faith and our love of God and others might lead us toward solutions or even small steps to healing and hope,” said the Rev. Nancy Hale, pastor of the Canton United Methodist Church, which will ring its bells in solidarity this week.
The Rev. Michael J. Crumpler, UUA’s LGBTQ and multicultural programs director, offered a similar reflection to viewers of Tuesday’s vigil.
“My assumption is that your hearts are broken, but that your spirits are eager to be revived,” Rev. Crumpler said. “My hope is that you will leave this space as the spirit would have you to.”