Story and Photos by Amanda McKnight
Members of the Shakopee Diversity Alliance along with local and state elected officials gathered in Huber Park on Sunday to hold a vigil in honor of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a (now former) Minneapolis police officer.
SDA President Ana Vergara said the group planned the vigil to be small and semi-private to ensure it remained peaceful, given the unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul over the weekend.
Shakopee City Councilor Angelica Contreras addressed the group through tears, saying Floyd’s life journey reminds her a lot of herself. She and Floyd were from the same region of Texas, she said.
“I feel I did what he tried to do, get out of there and try to become a better person,” Contreras said. “Mr. Floyd, I’m so sorry for what was done to you. I’m sorry you had to call for your mama in your last breath. Your death will not be forgotten.”
Mayor Bill Mars and the remaining three city councilors spoke, too, each of them saying Floyd’s death was a tragedy.
Councilor Matt Lehman said he’s spent a lot of time ruminating on why the people watching and recording Floyd’s death didn’t do more to intervene and knows it’s “because everybody’s afraid of the police. A good cop would have listened, digested, and backed off.”
Lehman said it’s discouraging the other three Minneapolis police officers at the scene didn’t take action to stop Derek Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
“It shouldn’t be this way,” he said.
Mars read off several names of people of color who have been killed by police in recent years. He said he’s been thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech the last week.
“That was 60 years ago,” he said. “I would hope we could stop dreaming and start living. We have to listen. We have to improve. We have to get better.”
Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate attended the vigil and spoke about his officers’ thoughts on the video of Floyd’s death.
“I watched that video and I’ve never been more disgusted,” he said. “It’s felt like a gut punch to everyone who wears a badge and does things the right way.”
Tate said he “believes passionately” that Shakopee officers do things the right way. The department puts an emphasis on training and requires more than the state minimums. Tate said Shakopee officers receive implicit bias training and deescalation training, and they foster a culture of accountability.
“We’re not perfect, but we have a culture of accountability,” he said. “We are angry as hell, embarrassed, and appalled, just like you are.”