George Floyd’s dying takes 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Agonizing, painful, lonely, frightening minutes. My human heart is grieved — my mother’s heart feels a stab of pain as George calls for his mother while life is pressed out of him by the knee and heart of this evil man. Over and over again we hear George Floyd’s call on world media “I can’t breathe” — a gentle giant — a kind man — a black man.

Four hundred people, give or take, stood in La Grande late in the afternoon on June 2 for Mr. Floyd with more joining through the evening. It was a glorious Eastern Oregon day. Sky blue, air warm — little breeze — a day to celebrate life, how tragic to be mourning this senseless death.

At times like this we look to our leaders for inspiration — guidance — help in understanding how to move through the moment to something better.

President Barack Obama suggests these actions in his article, “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” online, June 1:

•Reform police practices and the criminal justice system. “If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.”

•Protest to bring attention to marginalized communities.

•Elect government officials responsive to our demands and translate aspirations into laws and institutional practices.

•Elect state and local level officials, such as mayors and county executives — district attorneys and state’s attorneys — who will reform police departments and the criminal justice system.

•Increase voter turn out among young people.

A very inspiring part of the La Grande protest for George Floyd was the mass of students from Eastern Oregon University lining the streets — leading the chants — wearing their specially designed Black Lives Matter masks, and holding signs. They joined with the rest of the families, retirees, students, workers, clergy to say: “Being black is not a crime,” “I stand for change,” “We want a fair and just society,” and much more, including, “Honored to breathe for George who couldn’t.”

Cheryl Simpson

La Grande

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