Local civil rights leader shares their perspective on recent protests

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — One week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody, his death was captured on video and continues to spark outrage across the nation.

Protests, some of them being violent, continue across the nation today. A police officer has been charged with Floyd’s murder. Civil rights leaders, across the nation, and here in our area say this incident is a watershed moment in the race relations in this country.

They tell us they are not surprised by the outrage and violence. They insist they do not condone the violence, but they say they can understand where it’s coming from.

Some protests turned violent while others may not have been violent, but the outrage was obvious. Eyewitness News spoke with Ron Felton, President of the Wilkes-Barre Chapter of the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Felton says, “We’ve gone through this before and there have been marches in the past but I think, I think this is a watershed moment in that the numbers of people that are coming together of all ethnicities expressing their outrage.”

Felton has been very active in the civil rights movement his entire life. He says one of his main focuses is race relations and law enforcement.

“I believe lawmakers are going to have to get together. I think there’s going to need to be a serious conversation with members of law enforcement to try to work out a long term solution to the problem we are experiencing.”

Felton insists that talk has to bring about results.

“People are really getting frustrated. They’ve marched before and not much happens,” he said.

Angel Jirau, a civil rights activist, has been involved in improving race relations for the past 40 years. He like Felton, says talk must show results.

Jirau says, “We have to sit down and really address the issue and again it’s civil rights. What can we do to work together? If not it’s going to continue. It’s going to get worse unless we sit down and talk to each other.”

Both Felton and Jirau tell Eyewitness News they are sad to even have to address this issue in 2020, and are hopeful that this incident could lead to real improvements in civil rights and race relations in this country.

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