In Montgomery County, protesters spoke of George Floyd and another death at home

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June 5, 2020
By Dan Lamothe
Hundreds gathered Thursday evening at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring to protest police violence and the recent fatal shooting by a Montgomery police officer.
Hundreds gathered Thursday evening at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring to protest police violence and the recent fatal shooting by a Montgomery police officer. (Dan Lamothe/The Washington Post)

More than 300 vehicles strong, a “car parade protest” poured into a Montgomery County high school parking lot Thursday evening to demonstrate against police violence and a recent fatal shooting by a Montgomery police officer.

“I’m heartened to see this crowd. I’m heartened to see all of the different people of different backgrounds, because we have got to do this together,” said Zakiya Sankara-Jabar of the group Racial Justice Now, one of about a dozen speakers who addressed the crowd after they exited their cars.

Sankara-Jabar said the recent protests around the country — large and diverse — had made a big impression compared with protests she has attended in years past. “This is different,” she said to enthusiastic cheers.

The crowd at Montgomery Blair High School was peaceful. Police reported no arrests or property damage.

The caravan began in the White Oak section of Montgomery, passed by the county police department’s Silver Spring district station and ended up at Blair. Cars started arriving there at 5:45 p.m. and the speakers wrapped up just before 8 p.m., just before heavy rains came down.

Beyond the death of George Floyd, the protest addressed the death of Finan Berhe, 30, who was by fatally shot by Montgomery police Sgt. David Cohen on May 7.

Cohen’s body-worn camera video, released by the police, showed that Berhe charged the officer in a townhouse parking lot while holding a large kitchen knife. Cohen fired five rounds as Berhe closed in on him.

Katie Stauss, who helped organize the protest and is co-chair of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, said Cohen was too quick to pull out his gun and point it at Berhe.

“Cohen should have de-escalated the situation,” she said, adding, “Police draw their guns and shoot because they are not held accountable.”

Cohen’s attorney, James Shalleck, said the shooting was tragic but justified.

“From the body-cam footage, he tried to warn the deceased to put down the knife and even said, ‘I don’t want to shoot you,’ ” Shalleck said. “The deceased sprinted at the officer with a large knife in his hand. The officer had no choice but to defend his life.”

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