City of Cambridge officials held a virtual vigil Monday evening in memory of George Floyd, a black man murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer last week.
Hosted jointly by the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Peace Commission — a city department that aims to promote diversity and cooperation — the vigil featured short statements by Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, City Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Cambridge Police Department officials, and religious leaders.
The vigil comes off the heels of ongoing nationwide protests against police brutality and white supremacy in the wake of Floyd’s killing, the most recent in a series of murders of black people in America — including Ahmaud M. Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade.
Livestreamed from Cambridge City Hall, the vigil was simulcast on social media and local TV; on Facebook, the event garnered more than 750 viewers.
Reverend Lorraine Thornhill, who serves as the president of the Cambridge Black Pastors Alliance, delivered the invocation. She began by recognizing the pain people of color have faced in Cambridge and across the country, imploring policymakers to take tangible steps towards change.
“We pray today to give legislators wisdom to enact policies to protect black people that have been targeted for centuries,” she said at the vigil. “Hear our cry for righteousness and justice this day.”
Siddiqui then urged Cambridge residents to band together in allyship to combat racism and racial violence in the city.
“The allyship of our community members, of those of us who are white and non-black people of color, plays a tremendous role in creating the cultural shifts that we need,” Siddiqui said. “I stand with all Cambridge residents to say: not one more.”
Simmons said many families, including her own, have felt anxiety amid Floyd’s murder and others that came before it.
“I can’t breathe for my seven-year-old granddaughter, so afraid and asking me: ‘Why do they kill us?’” Simmons said.
CPD Superintendent Christine Elow said that the police department is “working hard to develop best practices in policing — arrests as a last resort.”
Two years ago, CPD arrested a black Harvard College student, and one officer repeatedly punched the student while he was on the ground. CPD later defended the officers’ actions in a tweet after students decried the arrest as police brutality.
“Are we perfect? No. But we are committed to setting a standard of what policing should look like,” Elow said Monday.
Brian Corr, executive director of the city’s Peace Commission, closed out the ceremony by invoking Floyd's name.
“George Floyd. Say his name,” Corr said. “Thank you for joining us, take care, stay safe, work for justice, and care for those around you.”
—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.