Men and women in the Cincinnati African American Firefighters Association marched from City Hall to the Hamilton County Courthouse Wednesday night in an effort to bring attention to police brutality against black communities.
"We are angry that despite many attempts at police reforms police brutality incidents continue to plague the African American community," a release announcing the event reads. "We are angry as firefighters and EMTs that law enforcement continues to fail to meet the moral standard that we as public safety officials are sworn to uphold. We are angry that systemic racism continues to exist in the public safety system."
William West, president of the CAFA, told WVXU the organization was inspired by the civil unrest in response to the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died while in police custody on May 25.
"That's actually what inspired us to do this and we feel that this is an opportunity that everyone in our community, across the world, has had an opportunity to speak and voice their opinion and be heard that this is wrong, and it continues to happen," West said. "We have to do something about it."
The group headed east on Court Street toward the courthouse chanting Floyd's name and "black lives matter."
— Jason Whitman (@Jason_Whitman) June 10, 2020
Demonstrators then held a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that then-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck while Floyd repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." Chauvin now faces charges of second-degree murder.
Cincinnati African-American Firefighters Association observing 8min 46sec honoring #GeorgeFloyd at the Courthouse right now. @917wvxu #GeorgeFloydProtests #Cincinnatiprotests pic.twitter.com/vQnvOqehpB
— Jason Whitman (@Jason_Whitman) June 11, 2020
"Things of this nature, it happens continuously for a reason," West told WVXU earlier in the day. "And my thoughts on this specific subject is that it happens because we as African Americans, we kind of downplay our power, our voting power. That's how we start to make change."
Change starts with each and every individual, he added.
"Right now, we have to hold these people accountable," West said Wednesday evening outside the courthouse as the peaceful protest came to an end. "We gotta get people in these positions that think and believe like we do. The time for change is now. Right now."