In photos: WPD leads peaceful march to 1898 memorial

The Wilmington Police Department Peace March makes its way toward the 1898 memorial site Wednesday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

WILMINGTON — On the ninth day since George Floyd’s death under the knee of a since-disgraced Minneapolis Police Officer, the Wilmington Police Department hosted a peaceful march downtown to honor his life and address growing unrest.

Uniting bipartisan leaders and community activists, the gathering began at police headquarters on Bess Street and ended at the 1898 coup d’etat memorial park. Full photo gallery below.

Related: Sights and Sounds: Protestors leave City Hall peacefully on first night of indefinite curfew


Most speakers invoked the Christian faith while praying or addressing the crowd Wednesday. Wilmington Police Department’s Chaplain prayed that Floyd’s killing may “prick the conscience of every law enforcement officer in the country.”

For a region with a history of ignoring and undermining black issues while symbols enshrining white supremacy remain standing, the march served as an honest attempt at reckoning with racial injustice.

City Councilman Clifford Barnett, who also serves as a pastor at the Warner Temple AME Zion Church, addressed the obvious heat and beaming sun (it was nearly 90 degrees). In a brief speech, Barnett used the heat as a metaphor for oppression, with shade representing change, increasing voter turnout, and new legislation.

Sheriff Ed McMahon began his statements by commending Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams. “This isn’t about us, but I want to tell you that Sunday night, this man stood behind me with tears in his eyes,” McMahon said.

“I’ve been trying to think of something I could say and there’s nothing. I am so sorry to the family, to the whole country, and to our community for what law enforcement did [in the Floyd case],” McMahon said. The sheriff said he is making a commitment to improve. “We want to do better.”

Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams said the march was about community.

“Today’s march represents the good in all of us. It says that we can serve and protect our fellow man by showing him dignity and respect. It says that we each have a moral compass that will lead and guide us to make sound and fair decisions,” Williams said.

“Justice may be colorless, unbiased, and accessible to anyone who seeks it,” he said.

View the full photo gallery below:

Participants arrive to Bess Street outside the Wilmington Police Department headquarters. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
(Front left) Wilmington Police Department spokesperson Linda Thompson prepares to address the crowd ahead of the march. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo arrives on Bess Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo (right) greets Wilmington Police Department Chief Donny Williams with an elbow bump. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Carolina Beach Police Chief Chris Spivey prepares to march. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Participants arrive to Bess Street outside the Wilmington Police Department headquarters. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
The march begins on Bess Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Protestors head down North 6th Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
A driver shows a thumbs up and honks in support of protestors making their way down Nixon Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Moms-N-Mourning founder Judie McKnight marches down Nixon Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Onlookers filmed the crowd as it passed by North 6th Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Protestors head down North 6th Street. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
The March makes its way toward the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
The March makes its way toward the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Two Wilmington mayors; former mayor and current Senator Harper Peterson (center) walks with Mayor Bill Saffo. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
The March makes its way toward the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Participants held signs of unity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Participants held signs of unity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Members of the crowd filmed the event as it began at the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
(From left) City Councilman Clifford Barnett, New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, and Senator Harper Peterson stand in prayer Wednesday at the 1898 memorial. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Moms-N-Mourning founder Judie McKnight gets shade from the sun under the Michelle Obama umbrella. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Marchers listen to Sheriff Ed McMahon speak after they gathered at 1898 Memorial Park in united protest of the police killing of Minnesota man George Floyd. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Participants held signs of unity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Several minutes into remarks at the 1898 memorial site, a separate group of protestors arrived after beginning their march from City Hall.

A marcher helps control traffic as a group turns onto Third Street, where tear gas was first fired Sunday night, on their way toward 1898 Memorial Park. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Marchers head north on Third Street toward 1898 Memorial Park to join other protestors who marched alongside WPD Interim Police Chief Donny Williams and other city leaders. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Marchers head north on Third Street toward 1898 Memorial Park to join other protestors who marched alongside WPD Interim Police Chief Donny Williams and other city leaders. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Marchers head north on Third Street toward 1898 Memorial Park to join other protestors who marched alongside WPD Interim Police Chief Donny Williams and other city leaders. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A separate group of protestors walk down Third Street toward the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
WPD Interim Police Chief Donny Williams speaks at a peace gathering at 1898 Memorial Park on Wednesday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Participants held signs of unity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

“Law enforcement officers across this country must speak out and acknowledge that abuses and torturous behavior can and will not be tolerated in our agencies,” Chief Donny Williams told the crowd.

“If you’re not going to protest peacefully, I recommend strongly that you stay home,” he added.

Chief Donny Williams addresses the crowd. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Chief Donny Williams (center) bows his head as Sheriff Ed Mcmahon leads the crowd in a prayer. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Law enforcement officers bow their heads in prayer at the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Sheriff Ed McMahon addresses the crowd at the 1898 memorial site. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)
Lily Nicole, center, who has become one of the de facto leaders of the protest after reaching a compromise with Wilmington Police Interim Chief Donny Williams in the middle of Sunday night's protests, talks to protestors on the steps of City Hall after a peace march alongside the WPD and other city leaders Wednesday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Lily Nicole, center, who has become one of the de facto leaders of the protest after reaching a compromise with Wilmington Police Interim Chief Donny Williams in the middle of Sunday night’s protests, talks to protestors on the steps of City Hall after a peace march alongside the WPD and other city leaders Wednesday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee Still at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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