ROCKVILLE – More than 160 local residents, including County Executive Ike Leggett, showed up here Sunday to protest the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Unlike some of the protests across the nation, the Montgomery County affair was decidedly peaceful.
Local representatives of the local NAACP organized the protest march and coordinated the effort with county police. “Taking It To The Streets: Every Life Matters!” protesters met at the Carver Educational Services Center on Hungerford Drive and then marched to the County Executive Office building chanting slogans heard during similar protests across the country: “Hands up don’t shoot!” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!”
Once at the office protestors heard from a variety of community leaders in the building’s auditorium, including Leggett, Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal (D-At large) and Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Luther Reynolds.
Leventhal, who mentioned he did not want to say “too much or too little”, assured the crowd “the County Council is with you. We’re in solidarity with all of those who are experiencing this pain and this grief.” Leventhal also thanked the NAACP leadership for putting on the event.
Leventhal said though he wished he could promise and believe that such incidents as the Brown and Garner cases could not occur in Montgomery County, “in reality the misperception of race and the existence of racism is universal in the United States.” Leventhal said just last year at a human rights event county Chief of Police Tom Manger said an incident similar to the Trayvon Martin case could happen in Montgomery County.
Leggett said although Montgomery County is “different” from Ferguson and Staten Island, we are not “so different that we cannot learn a lesson, we’re not so different that we cannot make mistakes”.
Leggett shared two personal accounts in which he had been racially profiled in Montgomery County by police officers to make the point that even the county executive could be subject to such “mistakes.”
In one story that drew laughter from the crowd, Leggett said back when he was on the County Council he had gone to one of his rental properties to pick up rent from a tenant in Silver Spring. Leggett said he had parked on the street and when he got back into his car to drive away he was pulled over by a cop. Leggett got out of his car and the police officer recognized who he was, saying, “Oh Mr. Leggett! I had just wanted to stop you to say hello.”
Abdullah Sallah, a 16-year-old from Montgomery Village who attended the rally, said it was important to raise awareness “so that families won’t have to go through this type of situation as they did in Ferguson.”
Elbridge James, the second vice president of the Maryland NAACP who also moderated the event, said they decided to put on the event in Rockville because “Montgomery County needed to speak up and needed to show voice to the outcry about the wrongs that were occurring.”
James said by putting on the event they seek to achieve more “awareness” and give a “wakeup call” to the community.