As riots, looting and protests raged over the weekend in coast-to-coast TV broadcasts, in a small corner of the Poconos hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil in memory of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died while a police officer kneeled on his neck, ignoring Floyd’s pleas "I can’t breathe."
About 300 people attended the vigil Sunday evening at the Monroe County Courthouse in Stroudsburg, said Christa Caceres, president of the Monroe County Chapter NAACP.
"It was wonderfully attended," Caceres said. "Everything we hoped it would be."
On Monday afternoon, there was another public show of support for Floyd with a march from Dansbury Park in East Stroudsburg across the Interboro Bridge to the Monroe County Courthouse.
On Wednesday, a unity prayer vigil in memory of Floyd is scheduled in the parking lot of Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church on N. Fifth Street, Stroudsburg, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event will be live streamed on the church’s Facebook page.
The Sunday event in the Poconos was unlike the big city protests, whose mantra is aimed squarely at what is perceived as deeply-seated police violence against blacks.
To the contrary, Caceres said the local NAACP has a good relationship with local police and has seen no signs such a mindset exists in law enforcement.
Floyd’s fatal encounter with the police, which was prompted by a complaint he allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill, was captured on video that sparked nightly violent protests and eventually the homicide arrest of Derek Chauvin, the now-fired officer who pinned Floyd’s neck to the pavement as he lay dying.
Although racial tensions and allegations of police brutality are at the core of the ongoing civil unrest nationwide, that has not been in the case in the Poconos, particularly in Monroe County, Caceres said.
"We’ve not been made aware of any police brutality or any violation of the law (by the police,)" Caceres said.
"No complaints," she said, referring specifically to the Stroud Area Regional Police, which covers Stroudsburg, East Stroudsburg and Stroud Township. "We have a fantastic relationship here."
Besides honoring Floyd, the vigil mourned the deaths of two others, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, two black people whose recent deaths, one at the hands of the police, have become high-profile cases in what has become an increasingly racially-charged environment.
Arbery, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by two white men while jogging in southern Georgia in February.
Taylor, an emergency medical technician in Louisville, Ky., was shot and killed by police in her apartment in March while they were executing a no-knock search warrant in a drug investigation.