A protest in downtown Lawrenceville remained largely peaceful Monday evening, ending with police officers and city officials bowing their heads in prayer with the 500 or so protestors at the scene.
Though police officers blocked off several streets to keep the protestors from marching away from City Hall and were equipped with shields, zip ties and pepper spray, by the end officers spoke with protesters about their concerns and even hugged a few of them in solidarity with their cause.
This was the third protest in Lawrenceville in two days following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. People began to gather outside City Hall around 4 p.m., one hour before the protest was set to begin. By 5 p.m. a couple hundred protestors stood outside with signs that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “Can’t Breathe,” “No Justice, No Peace” and more.
Antonio Laureano said he and a group of 10 to 15 other college students and Gwinnett County residents organized the protest. Although he had been quarantining the past few months due to COVID-19 to protect his family, which is immunosuppressed, he said he felt the need to participate because this was “the only chance we have to make a change.”
As the protest carried on, Kenon Richardson, who was protesting alongside his wife, niece and stepdaughter, said he was there to join the movement and voice his opinion about the injustice going on. He said he remembers participating in similar protests when Martin Luther King Jr. was still alive.
“Black lives matter,” another protestor, Quan Warren, said. “That’s my main motivation for being here. I’m tired of seeing black people getting mistreated and killed and no justice. Only about 2% of officers ever get convicted of these crimes. That’s sickening, so we have to start making steps.”
Warren said this was his first time protesting in something as big as the protests happening all over the country. Though some protests have turned violent and resulted in looting, the protest in Lawrenceville on Monday remained peaceful on both sides, Warren said.
At one point, however, protestors began walking toward the town square and were met by sirens and officers with shields who wanted to keep them from blocking the street. Police and protestors came face to face as tensions grew and the police began to slowly drive their cars toward the crowd.
Eventually, the crowd conceded and returned to City Hall.
“I just hope this all ends with the understanding that we deserve protection and some laws are changed in our state and nationwide so everyone gets treated right,” Warren said.
Monday morning, Lawrenceville Mayor David Still and the city council announced they would implement a 9 p.m. curfew beginning Monday night that would possibly extended into Tuesday and Wednesday.
Additionally, City Hall closed to the public at 3 p.m. and all public meetings on the city calendar were cancelled and rescheduled for the week of June 8-12.
“I want y’all to know that we want y’all to be able to speak and have a protest and let us know what you’re thinking,” Still said Monday, addressing the protestors. “... It’s also great that y’all actually have passion, but you’re funneling it in the right way so that we can start to have discussion.”
State Rep. Donna McLeod encouraged protestors to stand their ground and to remain united and peaceful.
“We are not going to continue to get abused,” she said. “Our bodies are valuable. I want you guys to understand I stand with you. ... We cannot let somebody die anymore. Enough is enough.”
No property damage or injuries were reported in downtown Lawrenceville. The Lawrenceville police along with multiple jurisdictions from around the county were present and maintained order.