The City of Aiken will hold a 4 p.m. press conference Wednesday to address the issues of injustice and inequality raised by the recent deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans.
In addition, the event will “show support of the message that has been communicated through peaceful protests around our city (this past weekend),” Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon said Monday afternoon.
The site of the press conference will be the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior and Youth Center.
City officials are planning the event in partnership with community leaders, including Paul Bush, president of the Concerned Ministers Fellowship, and Eugene White, president of the Aiken County Branch of the NAACP.
The Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce also will be involved through its Mosaic diversity project.
“We want to communicate that the leaders of the City of Aiken will not stand for injustice of any sort and we will work with members of our community to try to achieve equality for everyone,” Osbon said. “I think it’s very important that city leaders not be silent when injustice is done.”
Osbon will be among the press conference’s speakers.
He said more details about the event would be released Tuesday.
Floyd died May 25 in Minnesota while being restrained during an arrest. A Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, according to reports.
At the time, Floyd was handcuffed and lying facedown.
Osbon described Floyd’s death as “a travesty” and said it was “the latest in a line of incidents that have shown injustice.”
In February, Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot in Georgia while jogging.
In March, police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a medical worker, while executing a search warrant.
Bush met with Osbon and Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh on Monday morning.
“What we have tried to do in the past in Aiken is that when things like this happen – whether it was up North or down South – we rally ourselves together as a team and make sure we make a stand against injustice and inequality,” Bush said.
Along with discussing Aiken’s responses historically, Bush said he talked about the importance of local leaders making public statements when people are treated unfairly and that “deafening silence” should not be their response.
“There is an old saying that silence gives consent, and so if I don’t hear you speaking out against something, then obviously you’re OK with it,” Bush explained.
Bush also expressed concern about some of the reactions he had heard in the wake of Floyd’s death and other similar incidents.
“A whole lot of people say that things are getting worse now,” Bush said. “But to be honest with you, from a black perspective … things really aren’t getting worse, they are only getting seen. They are now being videoed. They are now being recorded.
“In the past,” he continued, “some people have said, ‘At what point do you think blacks will get over this and stop playing the race card? So much of what was done was done by our great–grandparents and our grandparents. It’s not happening today.’ And we never could get them to see that the reason why we couldn’t get over it was because it’s not over. It’s just the fact that a lot of Caucasians aren’t seeing it. It continues to happen in our lives every day.”
When asked about his personal reaction to Floyd’s death, Bush said he was “disgusted that any human being would have to go through anything like that. To feel your life just kind of drifting out of your hands in a situation like that is probably one of the most inhumane things that people have seen in a while.”
The Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior and Youth Center is at 841 Edgefield Ave. N.W.
Also Monday, USC Aiken's leaders issued a statement to the school's faculty, staff and students.
In part, it read as follows:
“Now, more than ever, we must stay united and Pacer strong. It is up to each of us to work together to create a safe learning and working community, where everyone – each and every one – feels they belong. That is our collective goal, and we hope you will join us in this effort as we continue to work together and try to make our campus, our community, our country, our world – and ourselves – better.
“Continue our Pacer tradition: lean in and on each other.
“At UofSC Aiken, we must be clear in our stand that hate, inequity and injustice will not be tolerated. We stand with the African American community and with all who are victims of racism and resulting inequities.
"As an educational leader, the university has a special role to play in building understanding and ending bias. We must and will continue to take action."