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Protesters demonstrate against racism, police brutality in Cumming
Protest
Protesters shout and wave signs in front of the Forsyth County Courthouse on Friday. - photo by Jim Dean

Chants of ‘I Can't Breathe,’ ‘Black Lives Matter’ and jeers against President Donald Trump could be heard in downtown Cumming on Friday afternoon as protesters took to city square as part of nationwide protests over racism and police brutality after the death of George Floyd.

Dozens of protesters showed up Friday even as there was some confusion as to whether or not there would be a protest at all after previous organizers had called off an earlier protest, which was moved to Saturday.

“We are out here protesting the death of George Floyd, who was murdered by a white cop,” said Rachel Dunwoodie, who was leading many of the afternoon's chants. “We are here speaking against racism, speaking against police brutality. We want justice, we want to be united, we want black lives to matter just as much as everyone else.”

Dunwoodie said there was a lot of excitement in the crowd but the protest was not violent and was meant to bring the community together to stand for all that lived here.

“It's being peaceful, no violence, no nothing. That's not what we're about,” she said. “We’re about uniting Forsyth County. We want Forsyth County to not be a racist county. We want all races, every life matters. Black lives matter the most right now because of what is going on.”

Along with Dunwoodie, Forsyth County residents Olivia Keith, Devin Cary and Armina Dizdarevic were among the approximately 50 protestors who carried signs, shouted slogans on Friday and tried to rally drivers to honk as they went by.

“I watched that video of George Floyd with the knee on his neck, and when he started crying for his mom, it just brought me to tears,” Dizdarevic said. “I was like, that should be enough to make anybody be like, 'There's an issue now and people have to do something about it.’ People have to come out and stand up because a lot of people don't have voices.”

All three said they had either witnessed or experienced racism and bigotry in Forsyth County and wanted to take a stand against those beliefs.

“As a black person in Forsyth County, which is known to be a very racist county, it's just like, I'm almost brought to tears that people are even out here protesting because I believed that everyone is racist here,” Keith said. “I had so many experiences that were like, 'I need to move,' and here I feel so loved that people are standing up for me.”

In preparation for the demonstration, both the Forsyth County Administration Building and Cumming City Hall closed early in the day on Friday.

In a Facebook post following the event, Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman said “no acts of violence or criminal violations occurred.”

Freeman told the Forsyth County News there had been a lot of misinformation posted online about the event and wanted to caution residents that any information from the sheriff’s office could be found on their social media pages.

“…There is just a lot of false information — inaccurate information, whatever you want to call it,” Freeman said. “I don’t know that anyone is intentionally posting false information, but again and again, we’ve been able to disprove a lot of these posts or they reference ‘the Sheriff’s Office said,’ and certainly before we would go to some social media, we would be on our social media to share there with our community. So, if it comes from the Sheriff’s Office, it’ll come from us.”

Cumming Police Chief David Marsh also said the protest had been peaceful and there were city police officers on hand if crowds got too big, “but by and large, this has just been kind of quiet.”

“You know they’ve got signs up and they’re talking, but there’s not violence, there’s no screaming or yelling at people that are driving by.” Marsh said. “It appears to me — and I’m very close by, but I’m not physically on the same corner as them — but it feels like they’re just demonstrating. It is certainly their right to do so, and they’re doing it appropriately and there’s really no cause for concern at this point.”

The event did bring some counter-protesters in drivers who were circling the Forsyth County Courthouse and yelling back and forth with protestors and Rev. Christopher and Cindy Borders, both of Cleveland, who were representing the groups Confederate Patriot Rebels and We The People News, which the two said have handed out hundreds of free Bibles in the region and help those facing homelessness.

The two sides did come together for a few moments. After a brief meeting, the two sides agreed that the counter-protestors would take a knee in Floyd’s memory and the protestors would kneel for a prayer led by Cindy Borders.

“Like I told them, we need to quit letting the news and social media come in between us and feed us these lies,” she said. “We need to come to some agreement where we can all talk because a lot of us feel the same about things. We’re not going to agree on everything; that’s what makes the world go ‘round.”

An even bigger demonstration is planned on Saturday, and Freeman said organizers for that event had also been in touch with police to put “security plans and safety plans in place.”

“… So, they have been nothing but cooperative and easy to work with and their desire is for a peaceful and non-eventful from a standpoint of any criminal activity or anything,” Freeman said. “They hope to have their voices heard. And they certainly have the right to express themselves and we support that. Both organizers have worked with us very closely and we appreciate them doing that.”