The tragedy and injustice of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis enraged our nation and sent shockwaves around the globe. Less than three months earlier on March 3rd, right here in Tacoma, Manuel Ellis died the same way: handcuffed and on the ground, shouting, “I can’t breathe!” while being suffocated by police officers.
At 8:00 in the evening on June 3rd, Manny’s family and friends held a vigil with the community. Traffic was rerouted by Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies blocks away in all directions. Walking up to the intersection felt like walking into a church.
The only sound was a faint piano playing on the corner where Manny’s family had gathered, where Manny spent the last moments of his life. Hundreds of people stood in silence, filling the intersection of 96th and Ainsworth, holding candles and signs of support.
They sang songs and played music. They shared stories about his life and the last time they spoke to him. His mother talked about the conversation they had the night he died while he was on his way home from church. “I got off the phone at 10:15” she said, “By 11:30 my baby was gone.”
Jaleesa Trapp, a local activist who helped organize the event, shared a call to action and asked everyone in the crowd to post pictures on social media:
Manny’s sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, told the crowd about the struggle she’s faced since her brother’s death. Until The News Tribune published details of her brother’s killing earlier in the day, the family was largely kept in the dark.
“Tacoma has not been transparent about what happened here,” said Nikkita Oliver, “We deserve to have justice seen, heard, and done right.”
As the sun went down and the streetlights came on, Chairman David Bean shared a message solidarity then he other members of the Puyallup Tribe sang and drummed. Most people slowly made their way back to their cars. A few stayed and talked with the family. A collection of candles, flowers, and signs were placed around the base of a streetlight.
The vigil was as moving and beautiful and saddening but it also left people with a sense of resolve. “Manny is George Floyd. My brother was a good man,” said Monet, “I have no choice but to get justice and he will get justice. I need you guys to amplify my voice.”