Protests and calls for action became a part of everyday life for Americans after the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. That same drive to see change came to Mexico on Wednesday with a dual protest and prayer vigil.
The protest took place at Lakeview Park, while the vigil took place in the downtown square. Around 50 people were in attendance at each event, according to a Mexico Department of Public Safety news release. There were no reported incidents at either event.
Mexico resident April Williams was one of the prayer vigil’s organizers and said she wanted to hold the event to honor Floyd despite having never met him. City and county leaders including Mexico City Council Member Vicki Briggs, Mexico Mayor Ayanna Shivers, Audrain County Prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger and Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller were in attendance. Prayers were led by Myra Nunnelly and Jackie Nunnelly.
"I don’t want to protest. I just want to honor a man whose life was snatched away from him," she said. "I feel like I have lived this nightmare before."
Williams also spoke February 2019 at a vigil for Ta’Juan "Thunder" Williams, who was killed in a shooting.
Williams opened the vigil speaking about its purpose and what she felt when watching the video of Floyd’s last moments.
"We need to honor the man because he literally has had all 50 states protesting," Williams said. "I don’t think he wanted his death to be a record. I think he wanted his death to open up your eyes and see that we are all human beings and no matter where we come from, no one should be treated like that."
Video from yesterday's vigil for #GeorgeFloyd in downtown Mexico. pic.twitter.com/SUen21YFET— Charles Dunlap (@MexLedgerCD) June 5, 2020
The four officers connected to the death of George Floyd all have been charged. All also were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. Derek Chauvin, who was seen on video pressing his knee onto Floyd’s neck, was charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting a second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
"We have seen a lot of things that have gone on. We have seen a lot of looting. A lot of protesting, but that is not what we want to do." Williams said. "This has brought Mexico closer. There are some naysayers. At the end of the day, it is about a man."
Floyd’s calls for his mother in his final moments greatly affected Williams.
"I don’t know about anybody else, but I heard my son’s voice," she said. "He could have been my son, he could have been your son."
Shivers was invited to speak by Williams. She spoke as herself, not as mayor or representing the city.
"The biggest thing I say to people is, ’Open your ears. Listen to what people have to say,’" she said. "It does not mean your reality is their reality, but it means that you can respect their reality might be a little different than yours."
Perceptions are different than reality, she said.
"Even though there is a long way for us to go, we are getting there," Shivers said. "It is going to take more than just us coming here one night for a vigil. It takes more than people protesting. It takes people learning how to live the life that they are talking about. It is not judging a book by its cover, it is taking time to read the book."
Shivers was proud of Mexico on Wednesday and for the people who came together.
"Don’t let this night be the end of it. Let it be the start of us working together on all fronts," she said.
Audrain orthopedics doctor Kathleen Weaver talked about her anger over Floyd’s death.
"We are all God’s children and no one should ever have to endure this or see this," she said. "I’m so grateful so many people of Mexico are willing to acknowledge that the life of one man means the life of all of us. ... No one deserves this treatment."
What happened was unacceptable and the U.S. believes in equality for all, she said.
"I am so appalled that this can happen in this country," Weaver said.
Change comes from within and talking to one another bridges divides, Williams said, returning to speak.
"We all are grown adults. I can open my story like a book," she said. "If you do not know something, ask. We may not always agree, but we are grown enough to have a discussion. I may take something from the table I did not know and you may take something you did not know."
We have to be the change we want to see, Myra Nunnelly said before her prayer.
"We have to truly love from the heart. The heart still bleeds red," she said. "We as a whole community have to come together at the school board meetings, city council meetings. We all need to be seen coming together."