by Terry Rogers
On Saturday, June 13, about 100 protesters marched from the corner of Valley Run Drive to Milford City Hall to honor the life of Brandon Roberts and to protest police brutality. Roberts’ was shot by police earlier this year when they responded to a domestic dispute at his home.
As they the protesters walked down Northwest Front Street and along Walnut Street, they chanted “No Justice, No Peace” and “Brandon’s Life Mattered.” They carried signs with slogans like “Black Lives Matter,” “Where is the 911 Call? Where is the body camera?” The last two statements were referencing the fact that the Delaware State Police, who are investigating the shooting, have not released a 911 call or body camera footage of the incident. They claim that the 911 call was from Roberts’ fiancé who was calling to tell the police there were no weapons in the home. Police contend that Roberts’ threatened them with a knife which led to the shooting.
At the march, members of Roberts’ family explained during the protest that he was cooking dinner when the police arrived and carried the knife to the door. They also claim that the officer that killed Roberts was next to him but the one that killed him was six feet away, questioning why an officer at that distance felt threatened but the one next to him did not.
“Something is broke and it needs to be fixed, something is definitely broke and it needs to be fixed,” Pastor Jonathan Dukes of Word of Life Ministries, said when the group arrived at City Hall. “It has to be fixed. On behalf of the family, I want to thank you all for this support, for your prayers. They need it. They have been dealing with this for five months, trying to wait on answers, trying to be patient. They have been trying to give the justice system time to do what it does, but it has been five months, so we are here. We want to put a spotlight on this. I see a sign that says “a mental breakdown is not a crime.” That is so very true. We need to do better at helping the mentally ill in this country. Instead of armed policemen, the Mobile Crisis Unit should have been dispatched.”
According to Dukes, Roberts was not a violent guy, but he did have mental health issues. He thanked everyone for making this a successful march and ended the march with a prayer. He asked for peace and solidarity as well as answers to what happened the night Roberts died. He asked for those in leadership roles in the City sit down and have a discussion with the family.
“The death of a young man under any circumstances is a tragedy,” Mayor Archie Campbell said in a statement issued on Friday. “The Mayor, City Council and Police Department of the City of Milford extends their sympathy to the family and friends of Brandon Roberts whose death has impacted us all. The City recognizes and supports the right of those who wish to gather and walk in Roberts’ memory. However, due to the ongoing investigation of Mr. Robert’s death by the Delaware State Police and the Delaware Department of Justice and potential litigation which has been threatened against the City of Milford by Attorney Neuberger as a result of Mr. Roberts’ untimely death, it is inappropriate for City leaders to join in the event. The Mayor, City Council and Police Department urge everyone to be safe, use a protective mask and practice social distancing while honoring the life of Mr. Roberts.”
The majority of the protesters wore masks, some emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.” As they started walking, Dukes asked anyone not wearing a mask to remember to keep at least six feet from others. There was no violence and no property damage during the event. Police closed off Northwest Front Street, Walnut Street and Causey Avenue to vehicle traffic in order to provide a safe route for the protesters. After speaking at City Hall, the protesters returned to Valley Run Drive before dispersing. The march began around 2:30 PM and ended around 3:15 PM. Another protest against police brutality will be held on Sunday, organized by a different person and not solely focused on the death of Roberts but those who have died at the hands of police throughout the country.