Demonstrations continue in Alabama: comedian calls for tearing down Confederate monument

The Four Percent


Demonstrations condemning police brutality and the death of George Floyd continued across Alabama on Sunday.

One speaker in Birmingham called for crowds to bring down a Confederate memorial in a city park. And a window was smashed out of a police cruiser during a confrontation with Mobile police as demonstrators tried to block Interstate 10.

Marches and rallies were also held Sunday in Auburn, Gadsden, and in Hoover where more demonstrators were arrested Sunday.

A march including at least a few hundred protesters made its way through Birmingham about 1:30 p.m. Sunday and many protesters ended up in front of the Birmingham Police Headquarters on First Avenue North.

The crowd had signs and shouted things including “No Justice, No Peace,” “I can’t breathe” and “Hoover killed EJ,” referring to the shooting death of E.J. Bradford by a Hoover police officer at the Galleria Mall in Hoover in November 2018.


The City of Birmingham and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute hosted a rally for peace and justice at Kelly Ingram Park Sunday afternoon. The event began at 4 p.m. Speakers included ministers, activists, Sen. Doug Jones and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

The rally was called to observe and pay tribute to the life of Floyd and victims of police brutality. The rally also had the purpose to provide opportunities for individuals to register to vote and get counted for the Census.

One of the speakers, comedian Jermaine “FunnyMaine” Johnson, called for demonstrators to tear down the confederate monument in Linn Park during the rally. The city has been in a legal fight with state officials to have the monument torn down.

“We’ve got a lot cities around the country. They’re tearing down Target. They’re tearing down city hall. We can’t do that. We gotta protect our city. We can’t tear down 16th Street Baptist Church. We can’t tear down the civil rights museum. We can’t tear down Carver. We can’t tear down A.G. Gaston Plaza. But what I’m not telling you to do is walk to Linn Park. I’m not telling to walk to Linn Park after this rally. I’m not telling you to tear something down in Linn Park. I’m not telling you that I’m going to be over there after this rally,” Johnson said.

“While the whole world is on national TV tearing something down, we need to tear something down tonight. They need to see Birmingham, the home of the civil rights movement tear some s..t down tonight.”

Other speakers called for peaceful protest and condemned destroying property, including Gwendolyn Webb, a member of the BCRI board and footsoldier who marched in the 1960s when she was a girl.

“When they were mistreating us, we didn’t burn down one store,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) discussed the progress made since the first civil rights marches in Birmingham, noting the diversity of the crowd present at Kelly Ingram Park.

“If you would have looked around you in this crowd 57 years ago, you would not have seen the diversity in this crowd. The only white faces that you saw would be those police officers and firemen. But look around the crowd today. Yes, we have come a long way but we got a long way to go,” Jones said.

Jones also commented on the racial disparities in those who have been infected with and died from COVID-19.

“They all (disparities) seem to shine like like the sun and beating down on a magnifying glass, and that that dry leaf, but low it starts to smolder, and it starts to burn. And that’s what we have seen in the last six days since George Floyd, was killed. We see the smoldering racism. We see the voices that are not being heard voices that are crying out for the same opportunities for everyone in America. But voices that are going unanswered. We face challenges folks dangers and fears that are not simply days old, but have existed for centuries,” Jones said.

In Woodfin’s closing remarks, he also called for nonviolent protests.

“This is not the time for lawlessness,” Woodfin said.

George Floyd killing protests: Latest photos, video


Police window Mobile

Police window Mobile – Lawrence Specker/

In Mobile, the first of two planned events started at about 3 p.m. in downtown’s Mardi Gras Park. A crowd of several hundred people, a roughly even mix of black and white, that had gathered by that point listened to remarks by Dr. Yvonne Mitchell, who described herself as one of the organizers of the event. “It’s not just about Mr. Floyd,” she said. “It’s about all the Mr. Floyds.”

With frequent chants of “I Can’t Breathe” and “No Justice No Peace,” the crowd began a march just after 3 p.m. on a route that took it along Government Street past Government Plaza, north to Dauphin Street at Cathedral Square, then along Dauphin Street past Bienville Square to Royal Street and back to its starting point. As it moved up Dauphin Street, Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste could be seen walking in advance of the throng.

By that point, the crowd had grown dramatically from the group of several hundred that had started. “There’s thousands of people here,” said Battiste, watching the procession pass Bienville Square. Battiste, like other officers visible, was wearing regular uniforms rather than tactical gear. “Certainly our intent is not to agitate and to create a bigger problem,” he said of the department’s approach.

He said the event had gone smoothly so far. “It’s very emotional,” he said of the crowd. “People have a right to express their emotions. As long as they’re peaceful, we’ll do everything we can do to support their right to do it.”

Protesters in Mobile also tried to block traffic along westbound Interstate 10. Police initially blocked a ramp with vehicles, then a busload of officers in tactical gear arrived to solidify the line. The window of a police cruiser was broken out during a confrontation. The crowd backed away as police donned gas masks in preparation for launching tear gas. A couple of tear gas canisters were fired but not into the crowd.

Mobile’s Executive Director of Public Safety James Barber spoke with people at the front of the crowd.


A large crowd also gathered at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn on Sunday.

Catoria Sharp, a junior at Auburn, and her friends were among those dancing on the corners.

“I knew that Auburn is a place that I want to be because they have this family vibe, but I didn’t expect this big of a support,” Sharp said. “It means that people really care about black lives and they want to see a change. And I want to see a change as well.”

Crowds filled all four corners of the intersection of Magnolia and South College Street before they converged in the center of Toomer’s Corner to meet in prayer. Black, white, Asian and Hispanic voices lifted in the “Our Father” as part of a Black Lives Matter protest that was in response to the death of George Floyd.

The moment was both “breathtaking and overwhelming” to Chris Wyckoff, who traveled from Montgomery to join the protest. He had missed the Saturday protest in his hometown and wanted to make sure his voice was heard.

Arriving in Auburn on Sunday morning, Wyckoff was a little uneasy and didn’t know what to expect. He had never been to a protest before, had never spoken out in such a way, but he felt it was time.

“I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to let my voice be heard,” Wyckoff said. “My great grandparents marched with Dr. King. I’ve never been in times like they have but just getting a glimpse of what it’s like to walk in their shoes, the legacy of it.”

As a Cadillac with two young black men holding signs pulled into the intersection and stopped, people converged, filling the street. After chanting and dancing for a few minutes, people returned to their corners while one man, Kristopher Davis stayed in the intersection “directing traffic” while throwing in a few flips and splits.

Davis, a fireman in Opelika, said he wanted to come out in a safe, peaceful manner but still get his point across.

“Me being a community provider, protector, me being a firefighter, I can honestly say not all firefighters are bad people,” Davis said. “Not all cops are bad people. But you do have certain ones… The important thing about this protest is just to let us know that we’re fed up with racism in general, but especially with black people.”

He also said he appreciated how the Auburn police aided the protest by blocking off streets for them.

With the pandemic happening, Davis didn’t expect such a turnout, but he said it meant a lot to see people of all races coming together. He got up towards the end of the protest to thank the white protestors who came out.

Protesters will gather again at 2 p.m. next Sunday for a march organized by different Auburn University organizations.

Protests on Sunday follow ones held the day before in Huntsville, Montgomery, Birmingham and Hoover. They are part of protests that have spread across the country in the days since George Floyd died while handcuffed after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes in an incident that was captured on video. Video of the incident sparked outrage across the country.

The protests, which have resulted in violence in larger cities, have so far been primarily peaceful so far in


Alabama remained peaceful so far except for 20 arrests in Hoover protests on Saturday night. Most of the arrests were made after protesters tried to block traffic on U.S. 31. Hoover police also reported damage to two businesses at the Riverchase Galleria Mall on Saturday night.

As of 5 p.m. Sunday dozens of protesters were already gathering by the Hoover Municipal Complex off U.S. 31 for another round of protests. Several dozen police vehicles from various law enforcement agencies and officers in tactical gear were on the scene.

Hoover police reported that as of 6 p.m. Sunday more arrests had been made but no more property damage had been reported.

A protest was also being held in Gadsden late Sunday afternoon. reporters Trish Crain, Giana Han, Lawrence Specker, Chris Harress and Ivana Hrynkiw contributed to this story.

This story will be updated


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