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Area protestors and police express opposition to racism

Protesters marched and carried signs in communities in Bucks and Hunterdon counties over the past week in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota pinned to the ground by a white police officer.

The now-former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who can be seen on cell phone video pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck while Floyd was on his stomach for more than nine minutes, ignoring Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe,” has been charged with third degree murder.

While many protests across the country have been marred by violence, demonstrations like those in Bedminster in Bucks County and Lambertville in Hunterdon County were peaceful.

In addition, an anti-racist, family friendly protest was planned yesterday in Doylestown. Organized by “kindie” musician Larissa “Lolly” Hopwood, it was intended as a safe space for children and families to express their opposition to racism.

“Introducing our youngest children to civics while empowering them to engage in their futures is a priceless opportunity. I cannot thank Lolly enough for organizing this,” said Heidi Roux, mother of 5-year-old Gus.

Several local police chiefs have also made their opinions known in recent days, speaking out against racism and voicing their opposition to and outrage about Floyd’s death.

Warminster Police Chief James Donnelly III met with Michael Shields, the organizer of a march in his community and posted a video of their conversation online.

In a letter to the community, also posted online, the Warminster chief said he “had a truthful and productive conversation (with march organizers) regarding the tragedy in Minnesota and the use of force in general.”

Donnelly said he looks forward to future meetings with the community and community leaders to maintain a productive dialogue and foster a better understanding with the community the police department serves and protects.

Solebury Police Chief Dominick Bellizzie also posted a letter to the community. In it, he said, “As I watched video involving the death of George Floyd, I was outraged by what I witnessed. I can honestly say I have seen nothing like it in my 40-plus years as a police officer. There is no justification for the actions of any of the officers involved in this tragedy. As the police Chief of your community I can assure you that I will work diligently to ensure nothing like this ever happens in our community.”

Buckingham Police Chief Mike Gallagher also posted a message to the community. “Upon seeing the video from Minneapolis, I began soul searching and a period of introspection,” the chief’s message said. “What I will assure you,” he added, “is that we have been striving to never let such a tragedy come to our township.”

The chiefs wrote about the background checks they conduct on their officers prior to hiring them, their character, and the training they provide them to promote professionalism and de-escalation in the way they deal with the public and prevent actions such as those that led to Floyd’s death.