Martin Luther King’s Daughter Calls for Nonviolent Protests

June 2, 2020 Updated: June 3, 2020

Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice King has called for nonviolent protests following the death of George Floyd, after days of rioting and looting across the United States.

Speaking during an Atlanta city briefing on May 30, the youngest child of the late civil rights activist said she sympathized with Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, having lost her own father when he was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

“I’ve obviously been in the place of the daughter of George, a 6-year-old left without her daddy, who was killed senselessly as my father was assassinated senselessly,” King said. “It sent me on a journey of anger, and I fought that demon a long time.”

The 57-year-old CEO of The King Center says she understands that the protesters are “fed up,” but urged them to protest Floyd’s death in a nonviolent manner.

“This is a moment where people are feeling a lot of stuff right now and are fed up. And as I stand in this moment and I look at my journey, I have to make an appeal to my brothers and sisters. Because I realize that the only way to get constructive change is through nonviolent means,” she said.

She then quoted some of her father’s famous words: “Riots are the language of the unheard,” adding that: “This is a time when we all have to listen. We have to listen to the cries that are coming out of the hearts and the souls of my young brothers and sisters and all of the others that are in the streets of America right now and in our city.”

King said that “changes have to happen” and that people “can’t go back to yesterday; we can’t keep doing things like we’ve been doing it in this nation.”

“But the only pathway I know to do this is through nonviolent means. It is a proven method. It did not fail my father. … It did not fail them. Because when you really understand it and really practice it, it brings about the results.”

Following the May 30 briefing, King continued to call for nonviolent protests, on Twitter. She said in a June 1 tweet: “Protest matters. Contrary to common misconceptions, nonviolent protest is not passive or weak. Nonviolence does not cooperate with evil. It puts a demand on systems and on consciences. It establishes goals and pursues them with true peace, which includes justice, as the outcome.”

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed African American man, was arrested by police outside a south Minneapolis grocery store on Memorial Day for alleged fraud. A citizen’s cellphone video showed an officer—identified as 44-year-old Derek Chauvin—kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and begged officers not to kill him. He eventually became unresponsive, with one witness noting that his nose was bleeding. The footage spread quickly on social media.

The father of two was pronounced dead May 25, and on May 26, officers Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Chauvin was also arrested and has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He’s scheduled to make his first court appearance on June 8 in Hennepin County Court. It isn’t known if charges will be brought against the remaining three officers.

Floyd’s death has sparked nationwide protests against police brutality, many of which have escalated into violence and looting, and several states across the country have called in the National Guard to assist law enforcement in keeping protests at bay.