Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston knows how to make a point and he made one at the start of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Thursday, June 4 meeting, which was – after an eleventh hour change of venue – held at the Bur-Mil Club in Greensboro.
At the start of the meeting, after a passionate opening prayer by Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis who called for “unity in the community,” Alston asked for the floor to provide a moment of silence for George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died prostrate in the street with the knee of a white police officer on his neck. That wasn’t unexpected, but what came next was unexpected.
In the past, anytime the Board of Commissioners has held a moment of silence, it has been just that: a moment. Usually, those moments last anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, generally closer to 30 seconds. However, at the June 4 meeting, that wasn’t the case. Alston asked for the moment and everyone in the room bowed their heads and remained silent.
They did so for 30 seconds and then one minute, and then two minutes.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, finally stepped in and said “Thank you.”
Alston responded quickly, “I’m not done yet,” and Alston proceeded to bow his head again and continue the moment of silence, as did Phillips and the two dozen other people in the conference room of the Bur-Mil Club.
A third minute passed, then a fourth, and soon the commissioners and others had been standing silent for five minutes. At that point, some in the room may have began to think that Alston might keep them there all night. Of course, no one paying respects to Floyd interrupted.
So it went on another minute, and then another, and then another.
Finally, Alston looked up and began to speak.
“That was 8 minutes and 46 seconds” Alston said, pointing out that that was the amount of time Floyd lay on the pavement with an officer’s knee on his neck as the life drained out of him.