Protests have been held all across the country in the past two weeks following the death of George Floyd. Many began with demanding justice for Floyd and accountability from all law enforcement.
A funeral was held in Minneapolis for Floyd Thursday, and a memorial was held in North Carolina Saturday.
Closer to home, in Fort Myers, a memorial service and candlelight vigil was held at Mount Hermon Ministries Sunday.
“Now is a time for calmness. Now is a time for prayer and supplication because we all need that right now,” said Richard Smith, the minister at Mount Vernon.
People gathered to sing and pray, speak and listen. The church says its role is to encourage prayer but also uproot systemic racism.
“The role of the church is the same thing the way it was in the days of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. We are here to pray for those that oppress, but we are also here to force a change in policy,” Smith said.
Another religious leader echos that sentiment adding that the church has always been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights. “The church was always the backbone and the forefront of the civil rights movement. Whatever happened always happened in the church. When they organized, they organized at the church,” Pastor and community leader Jasmine Escobar said.
Escobar also says she can feel the pain of the people in the community and all across the country. “Are our people OK? No, they’re not. They are hurting, but we have to be out there to help to say, ‘I feel your pain,’” she said.
And Escobar thinks they just want the violence to end. “Enough is enough. We’re tired. We’re done. We are finished, and you will let me breathe,” Escobar said.
But leaders of the vigil say that, while organizing, praying and protesting are all important, the real policy changes will come at the ballot box.
“We’re not here to soften anyone’s heart to our protest or to what we think should be happening,” Smith said. “But we’re here to inject a movement that will spark a change in policies and legislation.”
Escobar echoed Smith’s sentiment adding, “The next steps, in my opinion, is, of course, voting but also where can we sit down and strategize and say, ‘Let’s bring in different government officials and tell them what we think should be a policy.'”