On the day George Floyd was laid to rest, dozens of white Washingtonians gathered on the green grass of Logan Circle with signs bearing his name.
Scattered around picnic blankets, lawn games and socially distant gatherings, the crowd took a knee and quietly observed 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence in honor of the man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for that length of time.
It was the seventh day in a row Mari Quenemoen, 41, had held vigil for Floyd in the heart of her own neighborhood — one of the District’s whitest and wealthiest.
Puppies rolled and flopped under bent knees. Children climbed the backs of park benches and their kneeling parents.
When the silence broke, Quenemoen invited her neighbors to offer ways to make their community — and themselves — a little less racist.
“Tell Mayor Bowser we don’t want an increase to MPD’s budget!” called a woman.
“Support black-owned businesses,” said another.
“Teach your children what racism actually is,” shouted a man.
“Stop gentrifying,” another said.
In the center of the circle, Quenemoen nodded vigorously.
“Yes, and even I have work to do because I don’t fully understand what gentrification means,” she said into the megaphone in her grasp. “We all have work to do.”
The gathering, which began a week ago, started off as a neighborhood show of solidarity — a way for families uneasy about joining the throng of people outside the White House gates to participate in daily protests. But after several days of quiet remembrance and reflection, Quenemoen said, she wanted to do something more.
“We’re not going to vigil forever, so how can we send people home with ideas and energy that they can use to start making some change?” Quenemoen said, adding that daily vigils were planned through the end of the week.
Each day, the crowd has changed, though it has remained largely white. On Tuesday, with about a dozen black and brown faces present, Quenemoen said it was among the most diverse groups she’d seen.
As the crowd began to disperse, Jay D. Saint, 34, and Ryan Parzinger, 35, got back to their picnic.
Parzinger wondered aloud if it was encouraging to see white people trying to do something, anything, even if it was, as he felt, “misguided.”
“I think it’s a great indication that this time may be different,” Parzinger said. “I mean, we’re seeing this in the middle of Logan Circle.”
Saint smiled. For six years, he’s been marching with Black Lives Matter and donating to organizations that support black communities. As a black man and the descendant of Haitian immigrants, he said he has long seen himself in the graphic images of black men being killed by police.
“I want to believe the best, and I’m hoping it brings change,” he said. Then he shook his head. “But we’ve done all this. We’ve been doing all this for years. I just don’t know.”