Emily Jane, Worker-Correspondent
Friday, March 3rd was a dreary, cold, and miserably damp evening, a small crowd huddled under umbrellas near a pop-up awning. Despite the weather, dozens of us stood together outside of the Fairfax County Government Center.
It was too windy for candles, instead folks held small electric tea lights. Some brought homemade signs saying “Justice for Timothy Johnson”. Most of these people have been at an event like this before. You could feel that everyone knew, sooner than later, we will attend another vigil like this one. No one wanted to be there, no one wanted to mourn another life lost senselessly at the hands of the police. Without action, we will all meet each other again at the next vigil for a Black person murdered by police.
First, Nicole Mason spoke about the murder of Timothy Johnson. She spoke about the effects on the family, and the trauma incurred. Next, Tim’s mother spoke about her son. The father of her grandchildren. She spoke of the kids who will never see their dad again, and of the son she misses daily.
We prayed together. Some cried. Others shuffled their feet to keep warm as the wind picked up. The mood was somber, and in the air you could feel stifled anger and deep sorrow. How could this have happened here, again, to this mother? How many Black people have to die at the hands of police before we stop them? Will I know the next victim?
The family’s attorney, Carl Crews then laid out the facts. He talked about how Tim went to the biggest mall accessible to him, the mall at Tyson’s Corner. He talked about how little we know. According to his executioners, Tim took some sunglasses. We have no evidence available to confirm or deny that.
We know that two police officers chased Tim out of the mall. We know that Tim ran for his life. He ran into the woods, and they shot him dead. We know that these officers have been on our streets for 7-8 years, each. We know that they work with other murderers: Fairfax police killed a Black man during a wellness check last year. We know they’ve gone to hours of training on de-escalation. We know that they wore body cameras. We also know that they still killed an unarmed Black man, named Timothy Johnson.
We do not have the footage from the body cameras. We do not know the names of the officers, or how many others they have harmed. We do not know why they killed Timothy Johnson, an unarmed man, who posed no threat to them nor anyone’s safety.
Finally, Michelle Leete, President of the Fairfax NAACP, stepped up to the mic. Her voice rang out across the crowd, wavering with emotion, but powerful. Purposeful. Her speech began:
I do not want to be here.
She echoed this phrase, interspersed with words of wisdom from our elders in the movement. From MLK Jr, Malcom X, Nelson Mandela, and John Lewis. She, and they, reminded us of why we were there. She reminded us that we are part of a long struggle, and that enough is enough. That together, we must, and will, stop police from harming our community further.
She then listed the names of several Black folks murdered by police. There are too many.
George Floyd, wanted to breathe, and deserved to live.
We all joined in. We didn’t want to be here either, but if we have to be here, we would join together…
Jayland Walker, wanted to breathe, and deserved to live.
Keenan Anderson, wanted to breathe, and deserved to live.
Timothy Johnson. Wanted to breathe. And deserved to live.
We stand in solidarity with the Johnson family and the NAACP, and thank them for their leadership and fellowship. We must stop the police from doing further harm, and we must protect our Black neighbors from the violence of murderous, racist officers.
The Johnson’s family GoFundMe is here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/timothy-johnson-burialexpenses
A link to join or donate to the Fairfax NAACP is here: https://www.fairfaxnaacp.org/donate/