Hundreds of peaceful protesters packed the area around the Houston County Courthouse Sunday afternoon in what organizers described as an opportunity for blacks and whites to come together for justice after George Floyd, a black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis after one officer continued to kneel on his neck for almost nine minutes.
“We are here to make a difference, peacefully, to promote change,” Dothan’s DeAndrea Peterson, one of the event’s co-organizers, told the crowd. “We are not looting and rioting; this is our city…not Minnesota…I love Dothan.”
The vocal event, which included a chorus of “Black Lives Matters,” “We Can’t Breathe,” and “Say His Name, George Floyd” chants, and drew continuous attention from passing motorists for almost two hours, was organized through social media and started with fewer than 100 people but grew in numbers until it ended around 3 p.m.
Many of the sign-carrying demonstrators filled the sidewalks around the courthouse at the intersection of Oates and Main streets. Additionally, more supporters lined the parking lot fence across the street from the courthouse and sat on and in their vehicles.
Law enforcement showed a presence with Dothan Police officers and Houston County Sheriff deputies scattered throughout the crowd and watching from atop the old Houston County Jail next to the courthouse and in vehicles around the area. An unidentified drone also remained over the area during the demonstration.
Peterson said organizers requested and welcomed law enforcement at the event.
Although there was at least one minor incident when organizers addressed one protester who was speaking harshly through a bullhorn, there were no reports of any problems or opposition in the crowd.
In addition to bringing attention to Floyd’s death and the national Black Lives Matter movement, the event’s organizer Brandesha Potter of Headland and others repeated saying that in effort to make a positive change, residents must register to vote and become active in the political process. Potter was seen going through the crowd asking participants if they were registered to vote.
A voting registration area was manned by members of the Houston County Democratic Party. A person at the registration area said several people signed up to vote on Sunday and others asked for voting information.
“I stand here today in peace,” speaker Kris Doss of Dothan told the crowd. “I’m proud to be with both black and white Americans standing as one.”
Doss said there will not be peace in America until discrimination is gone and the nation undergoes a healing process that includes all races. He, again, talked about one of the first steps to bring change is to vote.
“Where there is no justice, there is no peace,” Doss said. “We can’t go on like this people;” blacks and whites must come together.