Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest Day Two
Black Lives Matter peaceful protestors returned to Hurst street for a second round of protesting racism and inequality issues on Wednesday, June 3.
The protestors held their first protest the previous day, Tuesday, and returned with a larger crowd on Wednesday.
The protestors stood on Hurst street from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., according to Panola County resident Tony Jeter, who traveled to Center to attend Wednesday’s protest.
“The protest was very beneficial,” she said. “Being with complete strangers or close friends that share the same beliefs as you… that feeling of not being alone… we can’t be silent anymore...It was an awful thing that happened to (George) Floyd.”
Floyd is the 46 year old Black male victim from Minneapolis who died after pleading that he couldn't breathe while a police officer held him down with a knee on his neck. A video, now viral, captured by bystanders at the scene of the arrest shows a Minneapolis Police Department officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck as he was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement. The technique (pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck) used by Chauvin is against department regulations, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, and the officer had no reasons to employ it.
"The technique that was used is not permitted; is not a technique that our officers get trained in," he said. "And our chief has been very clear on that piece. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with a knee to someone's neck,” he said. The mayor also stated that after watching the videos several times, Floyd had done nothing to receive the violence that he did.
Jeter expressed her personal side to the strong vocal beliefs through these timely issues regarding the death of Floyd and racial issues.
“Being a Trans African Mexican American - has put me in situations that taught me to be a better person,” she said. “Being a part of a protest at the age of 20 in the year 2020, is something I thought I would never have to do.”
Jeter said she felt it was important to speak up for those who fought for racial equality in years past and for future generations.
“The people who fought for my rights in the 1950’s - I did it for them,” she said. “And for the children that are not even old enough to comprehend what’s going on. We have to make a better future for them.”
Center local Tristan Smith also participated in the day two protest and stresses the importance and benefit of participating.
“It rectifies equality and brings a voice to the minorities of East Texas,” he said. “While the problems have been laying beneath the surface festering, we as Americans are showing our patriotism in speaking up.”
Smith said those investing time to stand in the heat just want their message to be heard.
“Some forget that we all bleed red. And we will not forget those who have lost their lives in the pursuit of justice,” he said. “That is the reason we ache to be heard. To support and guarantee everyone’s pursuit of happiness.”
Of the many organizers this protest contains, Center resident Mariah Nash is one of them. Nash shares her feelings about Wednesday’s protest.
“I felt that the protest was very beneficial to our community, just because we are a small town and had a great amount of support,” Nash said. “I love how this has brought unity throughout the community which helps us to be able to stand against the opposers of our protest. But overall the protest had a great outcome.”
Nash’s sister who also is involved in the protests, Aliyah Nash, said she wants to seek a peaceful and just resolution to the situation.
“I just want justice for George Floyd. I wish all Americans could come together and stop violence and hate!” she said. “ Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I’m happy to be a part of this movement.”
Another young member of the protest is Jocelyn Berry of Center. She expresses her words and thoughts about both the Tuesday and Wednesday Hurst Street protests.
“I attended the protest on both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, and I can honestly say that I was pleased with how they turned out,” Berry said. “Seeing so many members of this community of all ages and backgrounds come together to speak out against injustice was absolutely mesmerizing and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.”
Berry also answers the question about the connection between the Minneapolis man’s death and the protests happening here in Center.
“Many people felt these protests were pointless in that what happened in Minneapolis did not happen here in Center, Texas,” she said. “However, what we stood up for goes far beyond the life of George Floyd.”
“I hope this protest starts a community wide conversation about the injustices and racism people have faced in and around this city so that we may better understand each other’s feelings,” Berry said. “Spreading awareness on a local level is just as important as nationwide attention.”
Another protest participant, Andres Leon, said the issues being raised need attention.
“Participating in peaceful protests here at home is a great way to bring attention to societal and racial issues that often go overlooked in a small community like ours,” Leon said. “National issues might not feel like a problem, but the truth is, this affects everyone.”
He was impressed with the level of local support.
“The protests we held bring awareness and attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, racism and the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, and countless others who were the victims of police brutality and racism,” Leon said. “I was surprised at how much support we received. I feel so proud of our community; we're here to stand by the Black community and speak out against injustice.”
Leon also expressed his thoughts on counter protesters who showed up to both the Tuesday and Wednesday protests.
“I was also surprised at the actions the ‘counter protestors’ took,” he said. “Rather than bring a message of their own or act constructively, they only sought to instigate, distract, and drown us out with their trucks.”
Center native and 2019 Center High School graduate Esther Mergerson, who is now attending Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, is also among the protest organizers. Mergerson said there is another peaceful protest scheduled for this weekend.
“Saturday is a go. It will be from four to six at the same location,” said Mergerson.
Megerson said Saturday’s protest was planned to be a march, but they will still hold the peaceful protest until precautions for a march are complete.
“Saturday will be a protest. The march is still being worked on since the process to get it approved is a little longer than we expected,” she said.